College Art Association

CAA News Today

US Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) have introduced legislation to level the playing field for visual artists in the United States by establishing copyright protections for their intellectual property.

“Artists and arts organizations make valuable contributions to our communities and strengthen our quality of life. Just as our copyright laws extend to musicians and authors to encourage their artistic creativity, they should also apply to our visual artists,” said Senator Baldwin, who serves on the National Council on the Arts. “The ART Act is a commonsense measure that helps protect the intellectual property of our artists.”

“Our visual artists are critical cultural contributors, and the ART Act ensures they are fairly compensated for their work,” said Senator Markey. “Their creativity is a currency that should be properly valued. The ART Act also brings the United States in line with over seventy other countries, so that American artists can receive royalties when their works are sold overseas.”

“American artists are being treated unfairly,” said Congressman Nadler, who first introduced a version of the ART Act in 2011 and serves as the Ranking Democrat on the Courts, Intellectual Property, and Internet Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. “At a time when more than seventy other countries properly compensate visual artists for their work, it is time for the United States to do the same. The ART Act will ensure that visual artists get the compensation they deserve and will no longer be at a disadvantage on the international art market. It is the only fair thing to do.”

“Visual artists are the only members of the creative community in the United States who do not receive residual payments for their works. Composers, lyricists, actors, playwrights, screenwriters all deservedly receive royalties for the later productions, performances, or sales of their works,” said Frank Stella, one of the most renowned artists in the world and recipient of the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2009. “Unfortunately, visual artists in the US do not earn a penny in residual or resale payments. The benefits derived from the appreciation in the later sale of their works accrue entirely to the collectors, auction houses, and galleries. The adoption of the droit de suite in my country is therefore long overdue.”

Under current copyright law, visual artists—painters, sculptors, and photographers—are denied the ability to fully benefit from the success of their work over time. Unlike recording artists or publishers who, if successful, sell thousands of copies of their work and recoup a royalty from each purchase, artists sell their work only once.  If they are successful, the price of their work increases but they recoup nothing if their original work is resold at a much higher price. The benefits derived from the appreciation in the price of a visual artists’ work typically accrues to collectors, auction houses, and galleries, not to the artist.  In addition, United States artists are at a disadvantage in the global art market where more than seventy other countries have provided resale royalty rights for visual artists.  The American Royalties, Too (ART) Act of 2014 remedies this inequity by providing a modest resale royalty right for visual artists.

The ART Act would:

  • Provide a competitive resale royalty of five percent of the sales price (up to $35,000) for any work of visual art sold at auction for $5,000 or more
  • The resale royalty applies to any auction where the entity conducting the auction has sold at least $1 million of visual art during the previous year
  • Royalties are collected by visual artists’ copyright collecting societies who must distribute the royalties to the artists or their heirs at least four times per year
  • Allows US artists to collect resale royalties when their works are sold at auction in the European Union and more than seventy other countries
  • The ART Act requires further study by the Copyright Office after five years to determine the effects of the resale royalty on the art market and whether it should be expanded to cover works sold by dealers and other art market professionals

The ART Act includes many recommendations from the US Copyright Office’s December 2013 report, entitled Resale Royalties: An Updated Analysis.