An attempt to take stock of the prevailing legal regulations in the cultural sector in Austria is impeded by two factors. First, Austria is a federal state with relatively independent Bundesländer; this independence is reflected in the assignment of responsibilities for culture to the Bundesländer. Secondly, the Austrian federal constitution does not explicitly mention arts and culture. Statutory provisions regulating the cultural sector have not been laid down in a comprehensive cultural act, nor have they been systematically collected.
Therefore, the statutes referring to the cultural sector are found throughout the legal system: for example in the Federal Constitution Act or the Basic Law on Civil Rights (including Freedom for the Arts – Paragraph 17a, 1982).
Article 15, para. 1 of the Federal Constitution Act states that all matters not assigned to the national government are to be paid by the Bundesländer, including culture. However, in Article 10, responsibility over ‘sovereign’ matters such as scientific and technical archives and libraries, artistic and scientific collections and federal facilities (federal museums, the National Library), federal theatres, historic monuments, religious denominations, foundations and funds are assigned to the national government. The Bundesländer are responsible for preserving the appearance of towns and villages, for foundations and funds owned by the Bundesländer, theatres, cinemas, events, heritage, tradition and folk arts. According to Article 17 of the Federal Constitution Act, however, the national government and the Bundesländer as upholders of Civil Law are not bound by the above distribution of competences.