Artists Sue Resellers for Back Royalties: California Droit De Suite Law to be Tested

by Bill Davenport November 2, 2011

Lawyers representing Chuck Close, Laddie John Dill, and the Estate of Robert Graham, among others have filed three class-action lawsuits aimed at getting the big auction houses and eBay to divulge information about their sellers, and make them pay up under the  California Resale Royalties Act, which requires Californians reselling a piece of fine art for $1,000 or more to pay the artist 5 percent of the resale price.

California’s law creates a “droit de suite,” an artist’s moral right to a share in resale profits much like similar laws in Europe, but unique in the US, and Sotheby’s said “We believe the claim is meritless, and it will be vigorously defended.” Christie’s said that it “views the California Resale Royalties Act as subject to serious legal challenges.” Legal experts are divided about the law’s validity here.

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