Australia Moves Forward With (Weakened) System To Have Artists Paid Multiple Times For Same Artwork

from the down-under-confusion dept

There are a few countries out there that have "artist resale rights," which make little sense and do a lot more to harm artists than help them. Earlier this year, we wrote about plans for Australia to implement such a right and Michael Scott alerts us to the news that a watered down version of the plan is moving forward. If you're unfamiliar with it, the concept is that even after an artist has sold a piece of artwork, such as a painting, if the owners later decide to sell it, they must give back a percentage of the sale price to the original artist. The (faulty) thinking on this is that poor, starving artists sell their paintings or sculptures or whatever for next to nothing, and it's only later, when they're famous, that they're actually worth anything -- but the artist will never get a cut of that value.

Of course, that's not true. In reality, if those earlier works are so valuable, so are many newer works as well -- which the artist can create and sell for much more than ever before. Meanwhile, the problem with an artist resale right is it actually decreases the incentive for anyone to buy the original artwork, knowing that they'll have to sell it for that much more before they can actually make a profit -- since they'll have to kick back fees to the artists. It adds an unnecessary tax that acts as friction in the art market. The Australian plan tries to limit at least some of this issue by only having the resale tax kick in after the second resale. But, of course, this just moves the unnecessary friction up a level, and doesn't change the thought process that goes into the buying decision. With any other product, once you sell it, you've sold it. It makes no sense to allow the original creator to retain a cut of any later sale. Imagine if that were the case with cars or houses as well? Who would ever think that was reasonable?

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  1. identicon
    painter, 16 Dec 2009 @ 5:27pm

    Re: "the art market involves a fairly small number of artists who will or have "made it" "

    In the Uk just twenty artists got %47 of all the money collected ( from just 72 individual sales !). Art like life, is a very unfair biz.
    This figure raises the question; Why is the gov going to all this expense and special laws to benefit those artists who are most favoured by the market? And if its such a great idea for these same artists why all the compulsion- why the mandated duty placed on same artists to collect it?

    Its also a monopoly restraint of the terms of trade that I can sell my own artworks under, provably at odds with trade practices law.

    Apart from that I agree with you.
    Now for the Twist:
    the Australian scheme as legislated is not actually compulsory for artists , clause 22/23 requires the collection agency to in effect gain the consent of the right holder before collecting a particular royalty payment.

    The scheme is also too tax like to be part
    of copyright law and is thus stand-alone and is not a copyright.

    The blank tapes levy ruling of the high court (1992), that the blank tapes levy was tax-like and thus could not be part of copyright has been a major problem for the collection management industry. Hence the extrorinary amount of energy they ALL put into trying to establish a precedent for tax-like- compulsory royalty's , something that has never happened in australia. Thus the actual result from their perspective has been a defeat.

    It is also possible that it will be administered in a way different to normal true copyrights.

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