Long Road Ahead in the Fight for Resale Royalties for Artists

Mel Bochner, Mel Bochner, "Complain," 2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 119.4 x 4.4 cm

Mel Bochner, Mel Bochner, “Complain,” 2010, oil on velvet, 160 x 119.4 x 4.4 cm

The debate continues of whether or not the US will instate droit de suite, or artists royalties, for artwork resold at public auction. A bevy of high-powered lawyers from various auction houses alighted upon Capital Hill recently, The New York Times reports, in an effort to begin lobbying against a bill, proposed by Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler from New York, called the American Royalties Too Act (with the clever acronym ART). The bill has been altered slightly from a previous 2011 version to meet some of the auction houses’ criticisms of that document: now only 5 percent instead of 7 percent of an artwork’s resale price would go to the artist and the total royalty on any one sale would be capped at $35,000.

Several things have changed since the 2011 debate over artists royalties that have the auction houses in the current tither. As the Times reports:

“One is that Mr. Nadler is now the ranking Democrat on the courts, intellectual property and Internet subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction. A second is that the United States Copyright Office issued a report in December that backed off its longtime opposition to the idea of resale royalties. The report noted that in the past 20 years, dozens of countries around the world have introduced some version of resale royalties, known by the French phrase droit de suite.”

Nadler says of the latest legislative droit de suite efforts: “To me, the bill is a question of fundamental fairness,” but admits that getting it passed will take a great deal of work.

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