Fragments 3, 2003
Vanley Burke

The Waterhall, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery
until 26th September 2004

Artists' Resale Right [added 23/4]

Due to come into force in the UK in 2006, this will give visual artists the right to a percentage of the revenue from the resale of their works in the art market. The right, known as Droit de Suite, will be levied on a sliding scale on any works selling for more than 3,000 Euros. The principle is indefensible, but what will implementation of the law mean and how will it operate? The UK currently has the largest art market in Europe, whilst research on artists earnings (1996, therefore a little out of date) showed 62% of artists are earning less than £10K.

Droit de Suite?
Droit de Suite or resale royalty is the right of visual artists to receive a percentage of the revenue from the resale of their works in the art market.

All artists?
In the European Union, 11 of the 15 Member States can enforce this regulation, although only 8 do so. The UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Austria do not have Droit de Suite legislation.

Why discuss it?
The harmonisation of economic legislation is seen as important. This particular issue was harmonised in Europe on 27 September 2001 (Directive 2001/84/EC), opening the way for implementation by all EU members.

Is it a legal requirement?
Yes. The EU Directive lays out a number of issues for all countries to discuss. The Directive must be implemented in the UK from 1st January 2006 'to benefit living artists, and this must be extended to benefit heirs and estates of deceased artists by 1st January 2012.

Are there bigger issues?
There is the moral position - artists should be properly remunerated and share in the increasing value of their art. This seems indefensible since composers and authors profit through increased sales and performances. In addition it has the potential to smooth out some of the ups and downs of the art market. There are economic issues. Red tape is seen as detrimental to the UK market. The UK is the largest art market in Europe (over 60% of the EU art trade) with sales in 1998 of £3,287 million. The administration and legal wrangles around a small, but enforceable percentage of this is scaring free marketeers, especially as New York and America in general, with the exception of California, is not subject to Droit de Suite legislation and here it is not unknown for dealers to have an out of state address for invoicing.

What next?
The Government has asked its specialist agencies to consult the sector. The Patent Office (at the Department of Trade and Industry) is the lead agency and they have involved stakeholders such as the Design and Artists' Copyright Society (DACS) and the Arts Council of England.

Itís complicated then?
Yes. Who collects the resale rights and how?, How much will it be? The legal requirement for transparency regarding all sales etc., VAT and other national tax issues.

The above has been extracted from the following key documents: Implementing Droit de Suite (artists' resale right) in England, Research Report 23 Arts Council of England, 2002 (ISBN 0-7287-0860-4, £10) This excellent document makes comparisons with other countries (including California.) For further information see executive summary on the Arts Council of England website . The Design and Artists' Copyright Society (DACS) has a produced a clear set of recommendations for implementation, contact. Joanna Cave, Chief Executive, DACS, email, < website. The full directive can be found in the Official Journal of the European Communities, 13.10.2001

Text by Les Buckingham