Lawmakers Propose Resale Right For US Artwork To Harm Young Artist & Help Already Successful Ones
from the droit-de-suite-should-be-dumped-tout-de-suite dept
Over the summer, we wrote about a ridiculous new lobbying effort, led by the author of the DMCA, Bruce Lehman, to create an artist resale right in the US. We’ve discussed similar plans found elsewhere, and there’s no way to describe them other than as a ridiculously bad idea. It’s basically an attempt to have artists get paid multiple times for the same piece of work, without anyone planning these things by talking to an economist about how badly that will backfire. Either way, it looks like the lobbying effort has succeeded so far, as Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Senator Herb Kohl, have introduced bills to create such a right across the US in both the House and the Senate.
Basically, the idea is that after an artist sells a work, if the work is later resold, the artist gets a piece of the proceeds. The economically clueless thinking behind this is that artists sell works off when they’re unknown and starving for little money… but then when they become famous, it seems only “fair” that the artist should get a cut of the multi-million dollar sale of their artwork. Except that ignores common sense and reality (is it any wonder that it was easy to find two politicians to support such a plan?). First of all, artist resale rights harm artists. That’s because it now makes it more expensive for anyone to invest in art, knowing that they get less on every resale, because some has to go back to the artist. Any time you make it more expensive for people to invest in young artists, you harm those artists.
More importantly, this only helps already super successful artists, because they’re the only ones who make money off of this. The Nadler and Kohl bills only apply to sales of artwork over $10,000. If an artist has works that are selling for that much they’re already super successful and can make a lot more money by simply making new art and selling it themselves. In other words, once you’ve reached the stage where your old art is selling for $10,000, you shouldn’t be relying on an artist resale right anyway. You should be making new art and selling it for a lot of money directly and cashing in.
So, to recap: this kind of right harms new artists by making it more expensive for anyone to invest in their art, and it only helps super successful artists who can already make a ton of money from their art. It seems like the exact and total opposite of what would be smart policy on a copyright issue.
What’s amazing is that these bills keep popping up. The UK and Australia recently passed these laws, and California already has one — though it’s widely ignored. You would think that politicians would be concerned about introducing legislation that hurts young up-and-coming artists and only helps the superstar artists, but apparently that wasn’t a concern for these particular politicians or for Bruce Lehman, who was lobbying on behalf of… the Artists Rights Society, whose main goal here is to be the middleman to collect these fees (not exactly an altruistic position).