Changes on the Way for the US Art Market? If the "ART Act" Passes, Yes

By on 19 Jan 2018

Visual artists’ resale royalty rights is a huge issue in the art world as artists often sell their works for less, only to see their value increase over the years without getting a later cut of the profits. More than 70 countries provide visual artists’ copyright protections for their intellectual property, however the United States does not. Therefore certain members of congress and the art community are pushing to change that so that American artists can receive reasonable royalties when their works are sold publicly.

The ART Act is what is being introduced in congress to support American artists by allowing them to get a cut when their artworks sell at an increased value at public auction. The ART Act would provide a resale royalty of five percent of the sales price, up to $35,000, for any work of visual art sold at auction for $5,000 or more. The royalty would apply only to auctioneers that have sold at least $1 million worth of visual art during the previous year.

Under the bill, royalties would be collected by visual artists’ copyright collecting societies, which would have to distribute the royalties to the artists or their heirs at least four times annually. The legislation would allow American artists to collect royalties when their works are sold at auction in the E.U. and more than 70 other countries.

Opponents of the bill, which are mainly auction houses, argue that it will benefit those artists who are already successful and thus don’t need the additional income. Meanwhile a provision of the ART Act highlights a new aspect of the royalties world: after five years, the bill would require the Copyright Office to evaluate the effects of the royalty payments on the art market and look into expanding the scheme to cover works sold by dealers and other art market professionals. Thus this is an issue that effects the whole US Art Market as galleries and private markets are generally exempt given the nature of their sales, but in the issue of fair compensation, nothing is safe.

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