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?

Filed Under: artists, australia, copyright, resale rights


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  1. icon
    Ima Fish (profile), 3 Dec 2009 @ 5:33am

    Who in the frick will keep track of all these transactions?!

    I'm imagining yet another collection society which will collect transaction fees for each resale. Of course the soceity will keep a portion for itself, to cover costs and salaries, right?

    A mandatory system will need to be setup for the reselling of art pieces. It will be a felony for any Australian to sell or buy art outside the system.

    Small time artist will not be paid out what is collected by the society. They will be told that in order to collect they must become famous artists first. Defeating the entire purpose of the law in the first place.

    And of course it will be only a matter of time before schools, hotels, and individuals will be sued for displaying art without paying the collection society. Police powers will have to be given to the society so it can send agents into homes and businesses to ensure compliance. A telephone hotline will be set up so that employees can rat out their bosses for hanging art without an approved society license.

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