Friday 27 November 2009

Now you don't see it, now you do ...

News from Australia ("Visual artists entitled to royalties", by Susanna Dunkerley), is that visual artists will eventually receive a small share of the resale value of their artworks -- though the legislature has dampened the provision's immediate impact by providing that royalties will only accrue after the second resale (if there is one) takes place.

Right: are Australian artists being fleeced by the principle of royalty-free first sales?

Visual artists will be entitled to receive a five per cent share of the resale value of their works during their lifetimes and up to 70 years post mortem, in respect of commercial sales worth more than $1,000 (that's Australian dollars).

If it is accepted that visual artists deserve a share of resale revenue, it is difficult to see how that entitlement applies only in respect of the second and subsequent sales. If however there is no case to support payment of the royalty on the first sale, it is unclear why it should be payable subsequently. Readers' comments are welcome.

Thanks to Matthew Rimmer for supplying the link.


John Enser said...

Surely the point is that on the first sale, the artist is, by definition, selling the work him/herself and therefore does not need to charge a royalty; but on a subsequent sale, the artist has no control over or involvement in the sale process. Isn't that why the rights granted to artists are referred to as REsale rights, not just sale rights?

Crosbie Fitch said...

Droit de suite is a copyright inspired farce, i.e. the notion that the holy creator (or their assign) deserves a share of any 'profits' that occur in the use, reproduction, or sale of their work.

Publishers of books and computer games are already clamouring for royalties on resale, so why not visual artists too eh?

Droit de suit is effectively the compulsory retention of the freehold over a work, allowing only sale of leasehold. An administrative burden that probably costs at least twice as much as it returns to the artist in any case.

The worse thing about it is that it is compulsory, i.e. the artist can't waive it. The artist is supposed to have a natural right to freely exchange their labour. This privilege now interferes with that and prevents them selling their visual work unencumbered.

I daresay folk in 1709 thought the privilege of copyright was a good idea too.

What about Michael Jackson's glove? Shouldn't the manufacturer of that get a cut?

People have lost sight of the fundamentals of exchange. A manufacturer has no natural right or share in the subsequent use, reproduction, disposal, or exchange of that which they sell. If they don't like that, they shouldn't sell.

I suspect barter will become a tad more popular in future, e.g. "I'll swap my $13,000 Bloggs for your $7,000 Smith and your $6,000 Jones, and a $500 sweetener".

john said...

the royalty is not compulsory for artists,

from Australian Government info site:


Clause 22-23 requires the collection society to publish a list of effected resales and in effect seek individualised consent before collecting royalties ...

john said...

the non retro aspect is because when people bought art decades ago there was no such thing as a resale royalty.
It is afterall a contract between buyer and artist -- there was no contract prior to the schemes begining