Artists’ Resale Rights

Provisions that entitle artists the right to a share of the gains on re-sale of their artistic works. Such rights are provided for, in principle, under Article 14(b) of the Berne Convention, but are not mandatory and generally are only present in certain European countries, e.g., France.

A recent European directive provides for the uniform provision of such rights in the European Union. The right would apply to works of graphic or plastic art such as pictures, collages, paintings, drawings, engravings, prints, lithographs, sculptures, tapestries, ceramics, glassware, and photographs, provided they are made by the artist or are copies considered to be original works of art according to professional usage (limited productions or signed works, for example) and runs for the life of the artist plus 70 years. There may be a minimum level below which the rights do not apply, not higher than €3,000.

The directive makes provision for artists to receive a percentage of the sale price of their works ranging from 4 percent to 0.25 percent in five steps of the sale price, to a ceiling of €12,500. The directive is widely regarded as a bad idea, in part because it does apply to sales made outside the European Union—indeed its effect may be to drive the international art market out of the EU. Because of its French origin, an Artist’s Resale Right is often referred to as droit de suite.

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