American Royalties Too

The NY Times recently ran an article on artist resale royalties from a Congressional bill called the American Royalties Too act or ART. The bill would set aside 5% of auction sales on pieces selling at auction for over $5,000.00 and up to $35,000. The article notes only California had a similar law, and it was declared unconstitutional by the courts in 2012.

The NY Times reports

When a collector makes a hefty profit in reselling a contemporary painting or sculpture, the artist rarely benefits. Hoping to change that, three lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday that would allow artists to share in those proceeds. The bill proposes that artists receive 5 percent of the price of art that is resold at public auction for more than $5,000. Named the American Royalties Too act (so as to have the catchy abbreviation A.R.T.), the bill is a revised version of legislation that Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the ranking Democrat on the Courts, Intellectual Property, and Internet subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced in 2011.

“American artists are being treated unfairly,” Mr. Nadler said in a statement.

Tammy Baldwin, Democrat from Wisconsin, and Edward J. Markey, Democrat from Massachusetts, are sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.

Artists have long complained that unlike composers, filmmakers or writers, they do not receive a share of future sales.

Advocates are hoping that a December report from the United States Copyright Office that came out in favor of resale royalties — more commonly known around the world as droit de suite — will bolster support in Congress. The office noted that 70 countries, including members of the European Union, have adopted some version of a droit de suite. Mr. Nadler also pointed out that the act would enable American artists to collect royalties when their works are sold abroad.

Aaron Keyak, a spokesman for Mr. Nadler, said the proposed act tries to take into account some objections to the previous legislation made by blue-chip auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s. The percentage due the artist was reduced to 5 percent from 7 percent, and an overall cap of $35,000 has been added. The proposal affects auction houses and online auction sites (including eBay) whose total visual arts sales equaled more than $1 million in the prior year.

Mr. Keyak acknowledged that most art is sold through private galleries and individuals, but said the confidential nature of such sales makes it extremely difficult to collect the necessary information.

California had been the only state to have enacted a resale royalty law, but a federal district judge struck down the law as unconstitutional in 2012.
Source: The NY Times

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