In Brief

Artist Royalties Bill Has 16 Congressional Co-Sponsors

sothebys
Sotheby’s auctioneer Adrian Biddell (image via Financial Times/Flickr)

A bill introduced to the United States Congress in February aiming to grant visual artists the right to receive resale royalties — also known as droit de suite — has gained six additional sponsors in the last month, The Art Newspaper reported. The American Royalties Too (ART) Act calls for the return of 5 percent of a work’s resale value to its maker if it sells at auction for over $5,000, with royalties capped at $35,000. Spearheaded by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the act now has a total of 16 sponsors.

The purchaser of an artwork currently reaps the full benefit of a resale; visual artists — defined as painters, photographers, and sculptors — profit only from the original sale of their works, as opposed to other artists, such as musicians, who receive royalties each time their work is reproduced or performed. The right to collect resale royalties is widely acknowledged throughout the world, with over 50 countries adopting similar stances, according to The Art Newspaper.

The US Copyright Office is in favor of the bill, along with artists like Frank Stella and Chuck Close. Most recently, Christopher Rauschenberg, Robert Rauschenberg’s son, wrote an op-ed in The Huffington Post emphasizing the importance of the bill’s passage. Opponents, however, argue that the bill may have a negative impact on the art market, helps only wealthy artists, and targets auction houses. Christie’s and Sotheby’s, for example, have poured nearly $1 million into lobbying against the efforts.

Still, the momentum gained by the current bill is significant — Nadler introduced a slightly different version of it in 2011 but failed to gain any co-sponsors.

Correction, 7/21 4:46pm ET: An earlier version of this story repeated a claim appearing in the Huffington Post and the legal service Lexology regarding the date of a vote on the ART Act, erroneously cited as tomorrow. A hearing was held by the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives last Tuesday, July 15, but no vote is scheduled.

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