Congress Kills Artist Resale Right

Washington, D.C. -- Supporters of artist resale rights in the U.S. have been sent back to square one. The 2014 American Royalties Act (ART) was just killed by Congress.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network will be glad not to pay this art surcharge on U.S. purchases.

After the close of the second session of the 113th Congress on January 3, any bill not passed by the House of Representatives and Senate and signed by the President, is now dead in the water.

The bill which was championed by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), together with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), who introduced the bill this past February, and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) last year.

Had the bill passed, ART would have provided a resale royalty of five percent, up to $35,000, to be paid to visual artists for every work sold for more than $5,000 at public auction.

To begin with ART seemed set to appear for a vote last summer.

The Copyright Office even stepped in to support the bill. But the it didn't survive the 113th Congress, which has earned the not-so-glorious title of second least productive Congress in modern history, having passed only 296 bills before its close.

Sotheby's and Christie's allegedly spent over one million dollars lobbying against the bill. Such measures might have had a role to play in the ART's dismissal.

The U.S. has long resisted legislating the arts -- unlike European counterparts -- arguing that such measures would be detrimental to the art trade.

Seventy countries which include the UK, Australia, and Mexico, currently provide visual artists with a cut of the resale price of their work.

But Arts Economics' Clare McAndrew, who led the study by Arts Economics, pointed out that the booming postwar and contemporary sector has shifted to the U.S., and particularly, to New York. "If you look at the U.S., sales have gone way beyond boom era levels," she commented. “Since 2010 they haven't grown in the UK at all, they've dropped."

Some overseas dealers have chosen to ignore the resale rights of artists triggering tensions with dealers who abide by the law.

Although the European Commission is working on correcting flaws in the process, with issues that include the notorious “Cascade effect," which involves art dealers occasionally being forced to pay the ARR twice for the same artwork, a problem that is yet to be resolved.

Sales of fine art and antiques in the UK dropped by 3 percent to £8 billion in 2013, set against a growth in worldwide sales of 10 percent -- according to a report by Arts Economics, a research group. It seemed that the rights to resale royalties of UK artists may be effecting the market.

A petition spearheaded by European Visual Artists (EVA), the CISAC, and GESAC is currently asking for a global resale right to be mandatory for all member countries of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). The petition had achieved 14,897 signatures, and was rising.

Today's homepage Featured Art Video explains the Artist Resale Rights scheme as implemented in Australia.