In Germany cultural goods, such as art works or musical instruments, having reached certain age and value limits are subject to an export authorization requirement, regulated by the Act on the Protection of Cultural Property (Gesetz zum Schutz von Kulturgut or Kulturgutschutzgesetz KGSG). These assets include works of art and other cultural property, such as library materials, archives, estates etc. The assets in question are listed in the ‘registers of cultural objects of national importance’, which is maintained by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM). Export of such assets requires a permit granted by the BKM. The export license applies for transports within the EU Single Market as well as transports beyond the EU borders.
When exporting within the EU, art works older than 75 years and having a value of more than 300 000 euros are subject to the issue of an export permit, provided that the art work is no longer property of the author. Concerning musical instruments the reference value is an age limit of more than 100 years and a minimum value of 100 000 euros, both for temporary as well as for permanent export. Legal basis is the Act on the Protection of Cultural Property.
When exporting cultural goods to non-European countries, reference values differ – art works: older than 50 years, value of more than 150 000 euros; musical instruments: age limit of more than 50 years, minimum value of 50 000 euros. Legal basis is the Council Regulation EC No 116/2009 on the export of cultural goods to non-European countries.
However, in case a musical instrument is exported only temporarily, e.g. for the occasion of a concert tour, another more musician-friendly regulation comes into work: the 'specific open license'. This license is valid up to 5 years and allows the export of a certain intrument from Germany to another country as often as desired within this time scope.
Detailed information for musicians and cultural professionals is provided here (German only).
When importing cultural goods to Germany it may also be necessary to take into account regulations regarding the protection of cultural assets. The rules state that cultural goods, specially protected by another state as national treasure, can be legally imported to Germany only in case of a legal export from its country of origin.
A newly built musical instrument purchased from abroad, is generally not subject to import regulations under cultural property protection law in Germany. Most countries protect only old musical instruments – if at all. However, if an instrument requires a license for export from the country of origin, this should be carried along on import in the event of a check by German customs. Details can be found here (German only).
Further information can be found at Kulturgutschutz Deutschland (German only).
Travelling with musical instruments can be problematic if natural materials of unknown origin have been used in their construction. Especially in the case of non-industrial and historical instruments, materials may have been used whose origin or nature cannot be clearly identified at first glance.
Certain plants and animals enjoy special legal protection, which means that even their use in traditional instrument making is restricted. When travelling with such instruments, international regulations must be observed.
Whenever an instrument is made of handcrafted natural materials, it is advisable to carry a declaration of materials or another document that outlines the instrument's structural components to avoid problems when crossing borders. Such documents can prevent customs authorities from seizing an instrument based on a suspicion. Proof that an instrument is not subject to any restrictions is all the more difficult to provide if you no longer have access to it because it has been seized by the customs authorities.
The Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) adopted in 1973 is intended to contribute to the sustainability of international trade in animals and plants and places endangered plants and animals under special protection.
It is therefore strongly recommended that you find out before you travel to/from the EU whether a CITES permit is required for the musical instrument you are carrying because, for example, ivory or other materials originating from protected species have been used to make it.
In Germany, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) is responsible for issuing CITES permits. Before applying for a permit, an instrument maker must inspect all materials used in the instrument. As a rule, the person who does this should be the person who made the instrument, because he or she knows it best. When the origins of all the materials used have been determined, the instrument maker fills out the English-language Declaration of Materials. Once in possession of the declaration issued by the instrument maker, the artist can apply for a CITES permit for entry and exit from the BfN – provided that certain additional conditions (as per the appendices to EU Regulation No. 338/97) are met:
The CITES certificate for entry and exit is valid for three years and entitles the holder to enter/exit the EU and all 183 CITES member states any number of times during this period.
As an examination of the instrument may be necessary, initial applications for a CITES certificate should be submitted to the BfN at least three months before a planned concert tour.
Information from the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation: permits for musical instruments for concert tours, trips for recordings, music competitions etc.
German customs information: clearance of specimens of species covered by the Species Protection Ordinance (in German)
Concerns of the musical instrument sector
In January 2017, a number of additional timber species were added to the CITES list of protected plants and animals for which CITES permits are required. This has raised some concerns in the musical instrument industry, which led the CITES Plants Committee to propose preliminary interpretations of definitions of certain terms used in the lists, for example an interpretation of the term "non-commercial" (press release).