We assume that when a book is sold, the author gets paid. When a song is played, the musician gets paid. But when a work of art is sold, often the artist gets...well, nothing.
In an art economy becoming ever more characterized by quick turn-arounds and massive art speculation, it isn't the artists who profit when the price tags on their works go up. Those profits go to the dealers, the auction houses, and the galleries. The artists that created the works: they can't claim a dime of what they sell for.
Several U.S. legislators introduced a bill yesterday that, if passed, would change that, establishing copyright protections for visual artists and insuring they receive a percentage of the selling price their works go for at auction.
Proposed by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ART Act extends many of the same intellectual property safeguards already enjoyed by musicians, composers, and authors to visual artists. Currently visual artists are not entitled to a share of the profits made on the resale of their works, even as their works increase exponentially in value.
“Artists and arts organizations make valuable contributions to our communities and strengthen our quality of life. Just as our copyright laws extend to musicians and authors to encourage their artistic creativity, they should also apply to our visual artists,” Baldwin said in a statement released by the U.S. congress yesterday. “The ART Act is a commonsense measure that helps protect the intellectual property of our artists.”
Similar laws already exist in dozens of other countries, which Nadler says puts American artists at a disadvantage in the international market. The ART Act protects artists when their works are sold internationally, ensuring they receive royalties from future sales in all of the E.U. and some 70 other countries.
Under the ART Act artists would be entitled to a resale royalty of five percent of the sale price (up to $35,000) for any work sold for $5,000 or more at auction. However, the law only applies to works sold at auction, which does not include sales by art dealers and other institutions. But, if passed, the ART Act would be reviewed after five years and could possibly be extended beyond the auction house.