Should Artists Get Royalties if Their Work Is Resold? Europe Says Yes, US Says No
Frank Stella’s Delaware Crossing (estimated at $8 to 12 million) and Picasso’s Femme assise sur une chaise(estimated at $25 to 35 million) from the collection of A. Alfred Taubman being sold at Sotheby’s in 2015. Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby’s
Artist resale royalties in the United States, like Old Marley in the Dickens story, are as dead as a door-nail. On Friday, July 6, an appellate court in California ruled that the state’s 1977 Resale Royalties Act, which grants artists an unwaivable right to five percent of the proceeds on any resale of their artwork under specified circumstances, is incompatible with federal Copyright law and deserved to be struck down.
California was the only state to adopt such a law in the U.S. But all have somehow been thwarted. A similar effort in New York State did not get as far as a vote, and federal legislation—the A.R.T. [American Royalties Too] Act—introduced in 2014 into the House of Representatives by Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, and in the Senate by Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) also has not advanced. “It isn’t a matter that artist resale royalties are incompatible with the U.S. constitution,” said Boston-based art lawyer Nicholas O’Donnell. “It’s just incompatible politically, as there really isn’t any interest in this concept on the part of any party.” Again, dead as a door-nail.
Let’s run an obituary.