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Murky Waters: The Law and Economics of Salvaging Historic Shipwrecks

  • Paul Hallwood

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Thomas J. Miceli

    (University of Connecticut)

The salvage of historic shipwrecks involves a debate between salvors, who wish to maximize profit, and archeologists, who wish to preserve historical value. Traditionally, salvage of shipwrecks has been governed by admiralty law, but the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 transferred title of historically important wrecks in U.S. waters to the state in whose waters the wreck is found, thereby abrogating admiralty law. This paper examines incentives to locate and salvage historic wrecks under traditional admiralty law and proposes an efficient reward scheme. It then re-considers current U.S. and international law in light of the results.

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File URL: http://web2.uconn.edu/economics/working/2004-40.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2004-40.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2004-40
Note: We acknowledge the helpful comments of Dr. Toni Carrell, Robert Neyland, and an anonymous referee.
Contact details of provider: Postal: University of Connecticut 365 Fairfield Way, Unit 1063 Storrs, CT 06269-1063
Phone: (860) 486-4889
Fax: (860) 486-4463
Web page: http://www.econ.uconn.edu/

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  1. Mortensen, Dale T, 1982. "Property Rights and Efficiency in Mating, Racing, and Related Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 968-79, December.
  2. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 1999. "Economic Analysis of Law," NBER Working Papers 6960, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Lueck, Dean, 1995. "The Rule of First Possession and the Design of the Law," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(2), pages 393-436, October.
  4. Shavell, Steven & van Ypersele, Tanguy, 2001. "Rewards versus Intellectual Property Rights," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(2), pages 525-47, October.
  5. Dromgoole, Sarah, 2004. "Murky waters for government policy: the case of a 17th century British warship and 10 tonnes of gold coins," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 189-198, May.
  6. William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, 1978. "Salvors, Finders, Good Samaritans and Other Rescuers: An Economic Study of Law and Altruism," NBER Working Papers 0227, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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