Artists In The US Want To Get Paid Multiple Times For A Single Work
from the not-this-again dept
Another day, another plan to try to expand “intellectual property rights” into ridiculous arenas. We had thought that the idea of resales rights for artists was a complete non-starter in the US. Resales rights are a ridiculous concept, which effectively destroys the right of first sale and that harms artists but it is often pitched as being for the benefit of artists. The idea is that if you buy the work of an artist, and then later resell it, the artist gets a cut. Every time you resell the work… the artist gets a cut. The simplified and economically clueless rationale for this is that artists often sell their works cheaply when they’re unknown, and then it’s the collectors down the road who reap the benefits when that artist becomes famous.
This may sound appealing, but it leaves out the much bigger picture. First, this punishes those who invest in young artists by making it more expensive and more difficult to ever resell their artwork. This also means that people will buy less artwork as an investment, because you’ve automatically cut out a significant chunk of any profit. Limiting the market for a new artist is not a way to help that artist. As for the story of the “poor artist” who gets cut out of the appreciation of his own work… that’s also hogwash. Sure they may sell early pieces for less, but the fame does not preclude them from making new works, and charging appropriately for them based on their fame (some of which may have come about because of the risk that early buyers/supporters/patrons took).
Can you imagine if this expanded to other areas? What if you had to pay back the furniture builder when you sold your old sofa? Or the home developer when you sold your house (oops, someone’s trying that, too).
The whole thing is a bizarre and counterproductive concept. In past years, we’ve seen both the UK and Australia look to set up resale rights. Australia eventually put in place a watered down version, which isn’t quite as bad, but still has problems.
Anyway, after not hearing a peep about such an idea in the US in years… it appears that there’s a new lobbying campaign for a resale right in the US. Of course, it’s being pushed for by the Artists Rights’ Society, the main copyright licensing agency for artists in the US. Realizing that art galleries have freaked out about this in the past, ARS is trying to get this approved by exempting art galleries from this, not realizing how much worse that actually makes this for artists and for individual patrons of the arts. Now galleries have a favored position regarding terms and individual patrons have to pay an extra tax.
It appears that ARS has hired Bruce Lehman to be the main lobbyist on this issue. Does that name ring a bell? Lehman is the guy who constructed the DMCA. A few years back, Lehman admitted that the DMCA had been a disaster and said that we’d be better off entering a “post-copyright era.” Of course, he didn’t take the blame himself, but rather blamed the recording industry execs for failing to get digital. He also seemed to think that the DMCA’s overreach was a huge surprise, despite the fact that many, many critics brought it up at the time Lehman was pushing it — and Lehman’s response at the time was to threaten to “rip [the] throat out” of James Boyle, who had warned of problems of the DMCA. Lehman also sought to get Boyle denied tenure at the university he was teaching at for pointing out why the DMCA was a bad idea.
Given that history, I’m at a loss as to why he should be trusted when it comes to any form of new copyright-related policy.