Market overt or Marché ouvert (Law French for "open market") is an English legal concept originating in mediaeval times governing subsequent ownership of stolen goods. The rule was abolished in England and Wales but it is still good law in some common law jurisdictions such as Hong Kong.
In general, the sale of stolen goods does not convey effective title. However, under 'marché ouvert', if goods were openly sold in designated markets between sunrise and sunset, provenance could not be questioned and effective title of ownership was obtained. The law originated centuries ago when people did not travel much; if the victim of a theft did not bother to look in his local market on market day—the only place where the goods were likely to be—he was not being suitably diligent.
One designated market was Bermondsey Market in south London. A relatively recent case of stolen goods sold there was in the early 1990s when several portraits by well-known eighteenth century portrait painters, stolen from Lincoln's Inn, each sold for less than £100 from an outside stall. Since they had been sold in 'market overt', the purchaser could keep them. To quote Minister for the Arts Estelle Morris in July 2003 during the Second Reading of the Dealing In Cultural Objects (Offences) Bill:
- I did not have information about marché ouvert in the deep recesses of my mind, but experts reliably inform me that it no longer exists. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall) will be surprised to learn that it has been abolished only recently. It used to exist in designated markets, including Bermondsey. I am sure that the promoter will be interested in telling the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) about that. In it, items could be sold before sunrise [sic]. Believe it or not, in this land of ours, people could sell stolen—my officials put "dodgy" in brackets, but we do not use that term—objects. I assure hon. Members that it has been abolished. I hope that that deals with the fears of the hon. Member for Uxbridge.
- "Appendix 60: Memorandum submitted by the Council for the Prevention of Art Theft". Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport: Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence. London: British House of Commons. 25 June 2000. pp. section 3.1.
- O'Connell, Anna (October 2005). "The Controversial Rule of Market Overt". Art Loss Review. Archived from the original on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
- Lennon, Peter (15 March 2003). "A safe little earner". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
- Sale of Goods (Amendment) Act 1994 (PDF). Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1994. ISBN 0-10-543294-6.
- Burroughs, Katrina (30 May 2001). "In the market for a bargain". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2015-10-11.
- Wall Street Journal: A9. 26 August 1993. Missing or empty
|archiveurl=missing title (help). Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 4 July 2003. col. 663–664. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007.
- Bennett, Edmund H. (September 1882). "High Court of Justice. Queen's Bench Division. Walker v. Matthews". American Law Register. 30 (9): 574–576. doi:10.2307/3305040. JSTOR 3305040.
- Sale of Goods Act, 1893 (PDF). London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1893. pp. section 22. ISBN 0-10-850177-9.
- Pease, J. G. (May 1908). "The Change of the Property in Goods by Sale in Market Overt". Columbia Law Review. 8 (5): 375–383. doi:10.2307/1110070. JSTOR 1110070.
- "Sale of Goods. Market Overt. Custom of City of London. Shop. Auction Room. Trover. Demand and Refusal before Writ". Virginia Law Register. 17 (12): 269. April 1912. doi:10.2307/1104530.
- Ilbert, Courtenay (1920). "Unification of Commercial Law". Journal of Comparative Legislation and International Law. 2 (1): 77–80.
- Waite, John Barker (February 1925). "Caveat Emptor and the Judicial Process". Columbia Law Review. 25 (2): 129–151. doi:10.2307/1114303. JSTOR 1114303.
- "Market Overt: Common Law, What Is". Michigan Law Review. 27 (2): 218. December 1928. doi:10.2307/1279299. JSTOR 1279299.
- Gower, L. C. B. (July 1949). "Sale of Goods in Market Overt". Modern Law Review. 12 (3): 371–372.
- Eder, Phanor J. (Winter 1956). "Venezuela. Conditional Sales". American Journal of Comparative Law. 5 (1): 119–120. doi:10.2307/838145. JSTOR 838145.
- Murray, Daniel E. (January 1960). "Sale in Market Overt". International and Comparative Law Quarterly. 9 (1): 24–52. doi:10.1093/iclqaj/9.1.24.
- Belinfante, W. G.; J. G. van der Burgt (October 1960). "Sale in Market Overt". International and Comparative Law Quarterly. 9 (4): 676–677. doi:10.1093/iclqaj/9.4.676.
- Diamond, Aubrey L. (July 1966). "Law Reform Committee: Twelfth Report on the Transfer of Title to Chattels". Modern Law Review. 29 (4): 413–419.
- Levmore, Saul (January 1987). "Variety and Uniformity in the Treatment of the Good-Faith Purchaser". Journal of Legal Studies. 16 (1): 43–65. doi:10.1086/467823.
- Battersby, Graham (September 1991). "The Sale of Stolen Goods: A Dilemma for the Law". Modern Law Review. 54 (5): 752–757. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2230.1991.tb02669.x.
- Smith, Peter (April 1997). "Valediction to Market Overt". American Journal of Legal History. 41 (2): 225–249. doi:10.2307/845597. JSTOR 845597.
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