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?