Dear English Heritage and Council for British Archaeology,
No word yet on if you’ll publish an official finds agreement to protect us farmers from being ripped off but I notice EH has already written something that would do nicely. It’s in their document that all participants in official archaeological projects (including many detectorists) happily sign. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be used in all leisure detecting too. It is just 30 simple words:
“I understand that all finds from the site, other than Treasure shall remain the property of [the landowner!] and I will not claim ownership, possession, or any other right in such finds”. They oblige the finder to bring all finds to the legal owner (me!) at which point, if I feel like it, I may give him some or all of them. What could be righter or fairer?
Yet dangnabbit, you advise people (in the official Code and elsewhere) to sign just “a” finds agreement, leaving them wide open to “other” words and agendas. (Just look at the agendas in the NCMD one!). Worse, you say it will “avoid subsequent disputes” when that’s simply untrue. They’re my artefacts. By law. How can there be an ownership dispute? That can ONLY happen if extra words are added to the 30. Why a respectable profession is frightening a trusting public into thinking otherwise goodness knows. (Well actually, I do know, but you should stop.)
PS – I see that, following my first letter, Glasgow Uni amended its Encyclopedia. Now, not disclosing finds to the landowner is nighthawking “(except where this was agreed in advance with the landowner to be unnecessary).” However, non-disclosure is never, ever “unnecessary” for a clause that authorises it leaves the hapless landowner wide open to being massively ripped off. Hence, anyone getting him to sign it cannot be acting in his interest and a university definition that implies it is normal also works against his interest. Let’s hope it is changed.