Congressional Bill May Extend Royalty Rights for Visual Artists

The California Resale Royalty Act of 1977, the only one of its kind in the country, provides artists with a right to recover royalties upon subsequent resale of their original works.  This act was recently struck down by a California federal court in 2012 because it involved interstate commerce, and is currently awaiting a decision on appeal from the Ninth Circuit.

Barry Werbin of Herrick, Feinstein LLP explains the issue at hand this way:  “Visual artists typically do not share in the long-term financial success of their works because works of visual art are produced singularly and valued for their scarcity, unlike books, films, and songs, which are produced and distributed in multiple copies to consumers. Consequently, in many, if not most, instances only the initial sale of a work of visual art inures to the benefit of the artist and it is collectors and other purchasers who reap any increase in that work’s value over time.  Today more than seventy foreign countries – twice as many as in 1992 – have enacted a resale royalty provision of some sort to address this perceived inequity.”

Either way, the awaited Ninth Circuit decision highlights an ongoing discussion about a potential amendment to the U.S. Copyright Act  to enact a federal resale royalty law.  This concept originated in France in the early 20th century and is an optional component of the Berne Convention, of which the U.S. is a member, but without implementation of that provision.  Now, a resale royalty bill was introduced in Congress in February 2014.  The bill has garnered multiple co-sponsors and will likely be reintroduced if it does not reach a final vote by the time Congress ends at year-end.

Click here to read H.R. 4103 – “American Royalties Too Act of 2014”