European Parliament adopts Resolution on artists’ resale right

On 20 November the European Parliament adopted in plenary session a Resolution on the implementation of the Directive on artists’ resale right.

GESAC – the organisation behind this platform – welcomes this Resolution which highlights the importance of resale right to artists and their successors-in-title and the significant contribution the art market makes to the global economy.

Authors of graphic, plastic and photographic arts derive most of their income from sales of original works.   Resale right allows creators and their heirs to participate in the economic success of their works on the art market by receiving a share of the transaction prices. Resale right which is an author’s right recognized by the Berne Convention is also a major source of information for artists to see how their career is progressing, sale by sale.

The European Parliament rightly stresses that the resale right guarantees continuity of pay for artists, who very often sell their works at low prices at the start of their careers.

GESAC Director General Véronique Desbrosses said: The harmonisation of the resale right at EU level has been largely beneficial for artists. As the market is globalizing, it is time now to extend this crucial right to other key arts markets such as China and the USA and, as stressed by the European Parliament,  to strengthen the European art market’s position in the world”.

What is resale right?

Creators of visual works of art (say a painting, a photo, a comic or a sculpture) earn most of their money by selling their works. Unlike music artists, writers or other audio-visual artists whose work is communicated to the public in a reproduced form (CDs or books, for example)  only the most successful visual artists see their work reproduced on a scale that brings them more than just symbolic revenue.

Resale right was introduced to allow creators and their heirs to participate in the economic success of their works on the art market by receiving a share (between 4 and 0. 25%) of the transaction prices.

Christian Jaccardvisual artist says: “Rights holders take action to diffuse, promote, raise awareness of and reaffirm the works of deceased contemporary artists. The value of rights holders is legitimate, recognised and must be remunerated. Their work is crucial. Resale right isn’t a privilege; it is a tool to defend art.”

Resale right corrects the imbalances of the art market by ensuring the continuity of artists’ remuneration.  Artists – especially early on in their careers – often sell their works for low prices to collectors or dealers who sell them on – and on again – at a higher price once the author’s reputation is established. What’s more, an artist’s worth often skyrockets after death, as their works become increasingly scarce.


Resale right – a vital authors’ right for creators

Resale right is in financial terms the most important right that a visual artist has. Resale right is a crucial part of creators’ incomes – and an invaluable source of information for artists on how their career is progressing, sale by sale.

Market trends bear out that resale right has no significant impact on the art market

Extending resale rights through the EU directive has had no negative impact on the art market, yet has reaped tangible benefits for creators.

The global art market is a fluctuating phenomenon driven by a wide range of factors: the wider taxation system, including the application of VAT; commission rates; good economic health of a country, prestige of a market place, changes in taste and perception of the investment value of art; developments in the global distribution of wealth; and the speculations of a few operators who invest huge sums of money. The money paid by art market operators in resale right is tiny in comparison to their overall investment.

The art market was valued at USD 10 billion in 2010 and almost USD 12 billion in 2012.  Resale right account for only 0.03 % of this. As such, resale right cannot seriously be considered as factor that  shapes the art market. And even were it to be so, it must not be used as a pretext for denying creators an essential intellectual property right.

Next steps?

A global art market requires a global strategy.

The art market has evolved beyond recognition since the 1920s. Whereas Europe used to be the major art market power house in the first half of the 20th century, recent years have seen Asian countries step into the driving seat.

Art market operators, artists, sellers, several member states and the European Parliament are unanimous in their request to extend resale right on a global scale, to ensure coherent conditions across the different markets.  Numerous draft laws aiming to establish resale right are underway in many countries, including the United States and China. These efforts must be supported.

The European Commission should use its bilateral (trade agreements negotiated with third countries) and multilateral relations to press for the resale rights to be applied the world over.