Congress on Something — Why not Resale Rights?


le droit de suite (the resale right) – VA from Pierre-Emmanuel Lyet on Vimeo.

US Congress’ approval rating is low and to get some brownie points why not pass a federal law for artists’ resale rights?* Recently, the Artists’ Rights Society (ARS), a copyright and licensing collecting agency in the US, has renewed efforts to pass legislation securing royalties from resale of art for the artists who created them. The new proposal is promising because the resale fees “would not be applied to galleries”, but to actions in part because “auction sales are public, while gallery sales are private, so it would be difficult to track resales.” Bruce Lehman, the former Commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office who helped draft the original 1976 US copyright law and the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act is leading the new effort.

Those opposing the measure believe that it would only benefit the small minority of artists whose works have a significant secondary market, such as Picassos or Warhols, but “the great majority of artists, who have no significant secondary market, would have fewer gallery exhibitions and decreased sales in the primary market.” Additionally, the discriminatory effect on the auction houses is sure to prompt lobby against the measure.
Dealers who oppose the measure warn that resale rights law in the US would be difficult to enforce and thus unsuccessful despite the fact that about 50 countries have such a resale tax, including the European Union. Currently, the US art market attracts certain sales because there is no resale tax; it is possible that collectors would resell their art elsewhere if and when the US adopts resale right law.

As Helen Stoilas for The Art Newspaper writes, “The fate of droit de suite in the US may, in the end, depend more on the country’s general economic health.” In Congress, “few may see the need for extra funds going to artists” unless the majority of artists is deemed an important demographic for the next round of elections OR the minority of artists who’s works continue to appreciate in value would consider lending money to the US government to lower the national debt.

*Droit de suite, resale tax, artists’ resale rights — the legal right for artists and their descendants to receive a cut from secondary-market sales (galleries or auctions) of their art.

For more read, The Art Newspaper

 

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