Getting paid again

Dear Artist, Once more, some of our Canadian artists are lobbying for ARR. The idea behind Artist Resale Rights is that artists receive a small commission from subsequent public sales of their work through auction houses or commercial galleries. While some artists are beating the drum to get in on the post-gravy gravy, others see it as contrary to the entrepreneurial spirit and the investment side of the art game. So far the ARR kite is not flying in Canada. The chances of it flying in the USA right now are thinner than last century’s rice paper. Today, 59 countries worldwide have legislated ARR, including the European Union. Initially, dealers and auctioneers in Europe were concerned about the impact of the ARR on the art market. An independent study in the UK found that 87% of the art market remained unaffected financially. In most countries, the kickback to artists ranges from 2 to 5 percent of the resale price. Despite the banking and sovereign debt crisis in the EU, auction art by living artists is up again this year. In Canada, the national association of visual artists (CARFAC) has requested that government adds ARR to our Copyright Act. If such a thing were to happen, government is the last outfit you’d want to run it. An independent non-profit might work. My attitude has been that collectors stick their necks out by buying your work in the first place, and ought to enjoy the full benefit of their shrewdness. Others obviously think differently. I’m figuring that currently there are about 70 living Canadian artists (me included) whose work is on the block at major auctions. Some of it will sell for considerably more than what was originally paid. In discussing the situation with some of my more feisty friends, we found ourselves looking deeply into a can of worms. Is anyone going to be truthful? Are only the artists who register going to participate in the plan? What about artists living in the bush who have never heard of ARR? What about the resale of work that has gone through several owners? Will a secretive, underground art market begin to thrive? Will sellers offer re-sales in other markets where there is no ARR? What about the widows and widowers? Best regards, Robert PS: “Five percent seems very little to ask when you consider that the artist, through his or her efforts over many years, is largely responsible for the increased value of their work.” (Joe Fafard, Canadian sculptor) Esoterica: A royalty cheque is a prime mover in, for example, the music industry. Non-profits in Canada (SOCAN), and the US (ASCAP and BMI), make considerable effort to keep track of songs with radio and TV play, live performance, advertising usage, etc. Cheques are mailed to registered artists four times a year. Some songs reward only dribbles; others, made viral by widespread covering or energetic touring, turn into pots of honey. Justice seems to be done when the songsmiths are the honey-bears, rather than all that good stuff going to a few weasels.   Artists benefit when prices go up by Brian Liss, Toronto, ON, Canada   Artists do benefit from increased sale prices down the road as they can sell their new works for more — the royalty concept should then work both ways — resellers and new vendors should have a right to share in the artist’s current sales if the artist has a similar right. We don’t see this kind of thing in real estate — why here? If we are talking about copyright or museum shows (paid attendance) then I would support a royalty to the artist with pleasure. There is 1 comment for Artists benefit when prices go up by Brian Liss
From: Melissa Gruber — Dec 19, 2011

Hello Brian, I have posted a response to some of the myths that have been raised in this forum below but in response to your comment: High auctions prices do not necessarily have an impact on the prices an artist receives in the primary market. For example, late in Ron Bloore’s career his new work wasn’t selling at all while his piece White Line Painting #1 resold for $37,375 at auction. We believe that Visual artists should receive economic benefit from the resale of their work, regardless of whether or not that artwork has increased in value. An artist should not be penalised for volatility in the art market and should be able to benefit whenever their work has sufficient market value to be reused. It is rare that further sales prices will not be higher than the initial sale, and a collector is simply unlikely to put art back on the market if s/he does not have a reasonable expectation that its value has increased. Minimum bids at auction also assist in avoiding this problem, and dealers have the ability to turn down a sale if the offer is not high enough. The other costs of a sale do not change depending on the outcome. The dealer or auction house charge the same commission rates regardless if it sells for more or less. If the royalty were only paid on works were the value has increased, the rationale would shift from being a royalty on the sale, to a form of tax on profits. Melissa Gruber Advocacy and Communications Director CARFAC National

  ARR will help stop the quick-buck dealers by Sue Coleman, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada  

watercolour painting
by Sue Coleman

You may be missing the point with the ARR. It is not just to protect the artists like you and me who are wise to the world of art buying and selling, but more to protect those who are less aware and who are regularly cheated out of a fair compensation for their work. I am referring to not just emerging artists but to many of the artists from the First Nations who repeatedly have sold their work to galleries and entrepreneurs who turn around and ruthlessly mark up the value of the pieces and sell them to the tourists who often don’t know any better. The artist gets a small return and the gallery reaps the rewards. I say this from experience and firsthand knowledge as well as being duped myself many years ago. I understand your concern for the investors who support the arts, but there are too many buyers out there in today’s market who are just looking for a way of making a quick buck at someone else’s expense. The ARR would help stop that practice.   Not like the music business by Steve Day, Blandon, PA, USA  

“Autumn leaves”
original stoneware
by Steve Day

One Bad/Dumb Idea Unlike a musician, whose next blockbuster album is priced pretty much the  same as previous works (they are, after all, “unlimited editions”), a living artist can — and will — make more art, and it can be sold at the inflated price his earlier works now get on the resale market. But then, Robert, you know that!       California has the law by Kim Mosley, Austin, TX, USA  

original painting
by Kim Mosley

Such a law is foolish. It won’t help the struggling artist. Investors just put their moneyelsewhere. I don’t trust the European statistics. We don’t know where the market would be without the law. California has such a law.         There are 2 comments for California has the law by Kim Mosley
From: Larry Malone in CA — Dec 16, 2011

I am flabbergasted. Who knew California had such a law? Even if mildly beneficial to artists the burden of feckless rules and regulations is unbearable here and this is just heaping on more. Long suffering citizens have better things to do than chase down (whilst dutifully wearing their seatbelts of course on pain of arrest) artists who may or may not be residents or may or may not be living or their relatives and heirs. The cumulative effect of literally thousands of these do-good laws sucks the air out of people’s lives. Foolish is an understatement. The denizens of Sacramento just need to leave, go home, grow some tomatoes and not come back.

From: Melissa Gruber — Dec 19, 2011

Hello Larry, I have posted a response to some of the myths that have been raised in this forum below but in response to your comment: Far from asking artists to track all their artwork after it’s been sold, CARFAC proposes that the ARR be managed by a copyright collective, CARCC. They would send quarterly requests for sales records which art dealers and auction houses would be required to provide by law. In the UK over 60% of art market professionals say the ARR takes them less than five minutes and costs them less than £10 per quarter in administration. Melissa Gruber Advocacy and Communications Director CARFAC National

  Buyers penalized enough anyway by Shaun Mayberry, Winnipeg/Toronto, Canada   As art dealers, the last thing we need is another “tax” that penalizes buyers. Currently, next to the seller, it’s the Government who profits most from the resale of Canadian Art. Profits (assuming the price goes up) from the sale price are subject to capital gains that usually runs 25%. When the art is sold it’s also subject to sales taxes amounting to another 12 – 14% of the retail price. Perhaps if our government has our culture and artists’ interests in mind they might be prepared to give up a percentage of their take from each sale.

There are 2 comments for Buyers penalized enough anyway by Shaun Mayberry
From: judy lalingo — Dec 16, 2011

As an artist, I agree! I’ve always thought that if the government truly supported the arts, they would not impose a federal/provincial sales tax on purchasing original art. Especially the work from the emerging artist. Cap it at $10,000 a painting if they want, but any original work up to that price should be tax exempt. If that was put into place, then the resale royalty is a moot point, as the handful of successful painters (70, as Bob mentioned) are doing very well indeed. Wasn’t there a time when there was no sales tax on book purchases?

From: Anonymous — Dec 16, 2011

You hit the nail on the head. Government just wants more government services. Now even if you donate a painting to a charity, you must declare it as a sale, give a share to the government, and even then they can nix your charitable donation unless you don’t have an official valuation for your donated painting. I wonder if CARFAC can do something about that? Or just read the legislation to us?

  Galleries also take risks by John Kelley, Cottondale, AL, USA  

“Into the light”
oil painting, 24 x 36 inches
by John Kelley

Where does this end? Do the heirs of artist Jim Nash, artist Haddon Sundblom and artist John Mills deserve a cut every time a box of Quaker Oats is sold? I once designed a sign package worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for a local diner: should I get a cut of every hamburger sold? Should the man who invented the color of neon used get a cut? ARR borders on the ridiculous. It seems the concept, at best, is only helpful to the artists at the very top end of the market who are watching galleries resell their works at a higher price. A resale tax, paid to the artist, just adds another plate to spin when I would rather be painting. The galleries and auction houses take on a certain amount of risk in selling our art for us. I have no problem with them reaping the rewards of that risk. There are 2 comments for Galleries also take risks by John Kelley
From: Ann — Dec 17, 2011

Your painting is beautiful – the finest figure painting I’ve seen in a long time. Your comments disclose a lovely wisdom – keep on keeping on.

From: Melissa Gruber — Dec 19, 2011

Hello John, I have posted a response to some of the myths raised in this forum below but in response to your comment: Visual art is different from other goods in a couple ways. For one, the artist is often paid below minimum wage when they sell an artwork. This is why copyright exists — which is the second important distinction. After you sell a house the maker does not own any part of it but after an artist sells an artwork, they still own the intellectual property. They have a right to be paid when copies are made, when the work is exhibited and they have the right to ensure nothing is done with the artwork that would damage their reputation. That said, there is a much larger market for copies of music or books than there is for artwork. While musicians can benefit from the increase in value of their work over time through sales of copies, the increase in the value of artwork is usually attributed to the original artwork and so the artists are cut out of the profits. Melissa Gruber Advocacy and Communications Director CARFAC National

  Government does good things by Aleada Siragusa, St Petersburg, FL, USA  

“Orange City Mist”
oil painting, 10 x 8 inches
by Aleada Siragusa

“If such a thing were to happen, government is the last outfit you’d want to run it.” Please don’t assume I agree with you. Our Social Security in the USA gets attacked and put on the chopping block but because it is government-run we are able to maintain it so far and this is just because we still have the power of our vote. When you privatize you have a middle man to go through and they all need to take their share. Even non-profits get political with high-paid executives wanting their cut. And who gets hired to run the organization is also political, but removed from our power to vote them out of office. Since the government is in charge of the Copyright Act they should also handle the ARR. As far as payment to the artist, it seems like so little to ask, and an artist who thrives makes work that has a better chance of increasing in value.   ‘Can of worms’ stirred by Melissa Gruber, Ottawa, ON, Canada (Advocacy and Communications Director, CARFAC National)   I was quite interested to read your letter this morning about the Artist’s Resale Right (ARR). You raised some important questions and I would like to offer a few thoughts: “Government is the last outfit you’d want to run [the ARR]” We (and most of the MPs we have met) share your opinion that the Artist’s Resale Right should be managed independently and not by government. CARFAC is proposing that CARCC – a copyright collective for visual artists similar to SOCAN – administer the ARR. This is how it is done in many other countries. Administration through a copyright collective allows for cost efficiency and effectiveness, as it means art market professionals report sales to a single organization rather than numerous individual artists. “Is anyone going to be truthful?” What we propose is that CARCC send quarterly requests for sales information to art market professionals. By law they would be required to produce those records within ninety days. CARCC would then invoice them, collect the money and distribute it to the artists involved. “Are only the artists who register going to participate in the plan?” It would not be mandatory for artists to be a member of CARCC to receive resale payments, although all artists would need to collect the royalty from them or another collective of their choice. “What about artists living in the bush who have never heard of ARR?” CARCC would likely work with groups like the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association to reach artists in isolated communities. “Will sellers offer re-sales in other markets where there is no ARR?” There is no evidence that this has been the case in other countries that have the ARR. Sellers will sell wherever they can get the best price – which usually means that Canadian artwork sells in Canada. In addition, the cost of taking artwork over the border would likely outweigh the cost of the ARR. “What about the resale of work that has gone through several owners?What about the widows and widowers?” The ARR would apply to all sales after the first sale until the term of copyright has ended. This means the artist’s estate could collect payments until 50 years after his or her death. “Collectors stick their necks out by buying your work in the first place, and ought to enjoy the full benefit of their shrewdness.” In cases where artwork has appreciated significantly in value, the collector will still keep most of the profit. We believe 5% is a modest and reasonable request given that the artwork has increased in value largely because of the hard work of the artist. “Non-profits in Canada (SOCAN), and the US (ASCAP and BMI), make considerable effort to keep track of songs with radio and TV play, live performance, advertising usage…” Because there isn’t the same kind of market for copies of artwork as there is for copies of music, the Artist’s Resale Right would be a way for visual artists to share in the profit from the popularity of their work over time similarly to how SOCAN fees allow musicians to profit from the popularity of their songs. I hope this is helpful. We are always glad to get feedback from artists. If there are any other questions, you can reach me at 866-344-6161 or   The surreal universe of some artists by Ian Semple, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“Northern BC Exploration #1”
oil painting, 16 x 20 inches
by Ian Semple

The problem with (too) many artists is that they think their product is so unique that it somehow should fly under special navigation rules and enjoy unique landing rights. The ARR is merely another balloon that many artists wish to fly in the surreal universe in which they wander, a universe apparently composed of the toxic air of illusion and fantasy. If you built a bicycle and sold it to someone who in turn sold it to someone else, would you demand a royalty on the second sale? Under the proposed ARR that would apparently be the case. Get real! Joe Fafard’s quote, aside from the perhaps unfortunate but nonetheless irrelevance of “his or her efforts over many years” is reflective of how divorced from the real world are too many artists. Mr. Fafard should be appreciative that someone had the temerity to purchase his art in the first place, when that art may, or indeed may not have been, worth the purchase price. Beyond just pure appreciation that’s called speculation, or perhaps investment at a later date in an artist’s career when the latter may have established some reputation. Ultimately, in the real world in which art must also occupy along with other commodities, once an artwork is sold, the artist severs all connection to its ownership. The only entity that normally gets a piece of the action for every transaction as that artwork travels through the art-world market is, you guessed it, the government!   It’s a rough life by Patricia Sharp, Millbridge, ME, USA  

“Onions on Line, Balemartine, Isle of Tiree”
oil painting
by Patricia Sharp

“Collectors stick their neck out to buy original work and ought to be rewarded for their shrewdness?” What about the Artist who is supporting the local power and communications companies, art supply houses, insurances, pharmaceutical companies, inflationary food and consumer goods prices, OIL companies, not to mention exhibition, framing, PR., and transporting fees, for the duration of working on that purchased painting? I’d say that is a concrete value, costing more than just shrewdness, which is merely an intangible attitude, not deductible on a balance sheet. What if, in order to keep the power company placated, the Artist has to sell the painting at a loss? There are “collectors” who have been shrewd enough to commission my services in past years who have paid, $3,000, 4,000, -$10,000 for my work. The socio-economic climate has changed drastically in 20 years — their offspring have other ideas how to spend their money. In 1987, I agreed to paint a series of marine paintings for a client @ $1,100 per framed painting (at the time other patrons were paying the $3 – $4000 for single commissions). Based on a volume /reliable income of projected $50,000 total for artwork, I agreed to it. For the first 2 years it was workable, if a bit pressured and I earned 1/2 that projected amount, padded out with other free-lance commissions, in a situation of rapidly inflating costs. Then the economy tanked in the Philadelphia /New Jersey area, my patron had to declare bankruptcy, laying off men who had worked for his companies for 20 years or more. The other $25,000 was no longer valid and I was forced to sell the house and studio that had so comfortably supported my painting earning efforts and buy a lesser house in Maine, which has fought against the efficient production of my work ever since. (I’m Lucky to have it and, as time has proven, the inspiration and source of my current work is all around me–wasn’t present in NJ but it also robs me of work time regularly!) I have had to cut back on the size of my finished work due to lack of space and reduced income. In 1989 one of my tall ship paintings won first prize in the National Seaheritage Competition and was displayed through the summer at the South Street Seaport Museum in Manhattan. The prize money was minimal and the director had just been diagnosed with cancer, so the promised publicity was not forthcoming and no one was “shrewd” enough to buy it for $3,000. It went to my patron, for $1,100! Several years later he put it into the Marine exhibit at the Philadelphia Union League Club, in company with John Stobart, Montague Dawson, Winslow Homer, and then a year later he or his heirs sold the entire collection at auction. I was invited to attend, but lacked the income to travel to Pennsylvania for the event — certainly couldn’t buy back my work. I’d say that the past 20 years of guts and determination to pursue my Art Career is worth a lot more than just shrewdness! There is 1 comment for It’s a rough life by Patricia Sharp
From: Rick Rotante — Dec 19, 2011

It’s very hard to convince others the only one taking any risk is the artist for producing any work at all with the hope he/she will get fair market value ever. When artists get tired of being cheated, is when the climate will change. We are so convinced we should be happy anyone “stoops” so low as to buy our work, only we are responsible for our own imprisonment of thought that we are meant to be poor, miscreants who are to suffer for our art. Wake up! This is a business and we make the product.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Getting paid again

From: violetta — Dec 12, 2011

I live in Australia where indigenous art is all the rage, and, the Aboriginal artists are primarily people in outback back waters, who’s lives are marginalised and who have no street savvy. Their work can resell for impressive and considerable amounts of money, including all over the world, while their unenviable existances don’t change. I WELCOME a government body or ANY body that regulates copyright and resale for the people who do the work that makes this whole nonsense industry possible, and, we, here in Australia are only just starting to see some justice for these indigenous people. For others who just paint for prestige or name or whatever superficial no-need, definitely it is a whole different ball game.

From: Neil Taylor — Dec 12, 2011

In Oz we have recently adopted “droit de suite” or ARR legislation and are currently ironing out the many difficulties including accountability and royalty distribution. However I must say there is a glaring benefit that you haven’t canvassed in your letter. I know quite a few elderley artists who are either totally unable to paint or have their production severely curtailled because of age, sickness etc. Many have spent most or all of their past incomes and are living on meagre pensions while every year the secondary market resells their work for totals of millions. Unlike the average office or public service job there is no superannuation for artists and if you can’t produce till you die you and your family will suffer. ARR fixes that injustice.

From: Laura Zerebeski — Dec 12, 2011

I’m speaking from a position of self-interest but it seems appalling that there aren’t royalties for visual artists. Some countries have them but not North America. Musicians get royalties. Writers get royalties. Films get royalties. Actors get residuals. Visual artists? Nope. And the initial point of sale is often subject to 50% commission by the selling agent/dealer/gallery. It seems unfair. A 50% commission implies that the selling agent does half the work. Meanwhile, literary agents take a comparatively smaller percentage (10-20%) as do talent agents who deal with actors and musicians and models and athletes. Those actors, musicians, and models then get royalties of some sort on their portrayals and music and images. What do visual artists get? Some insouciant freedom to do what we want, when we want? Hm.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Dec 13, 2011

This is an interesting issue you have brought up and all its legal implications. Here in the USA the general public rarely hears anything about living visual artists unless they are a painting elephant or someone’s chicken. We know all the intimate details of every obscure rock star’s life, however. This is the difference between us and the music and video industry. To get a law enacted that provides royalties for visual artists, that I believe is only fair, requires a lot of people have to know and care about living visual artists and their art. Unless you live near a large city with a good art museum, people do not have exposure to good art, won’t know anything about art and won’t care. I don’t know if I have this opinion because I live in a college town that is obsessed with football or if my observation is true throughout the country. Have we visual artists done a poor job of advertising ourselves and left it up to other people? Have we assumed our art will do the speaking for us and we won’t have to do the hard work of getting ourselves in print or interviewed?

From: Rene — Dec 13, 2011

When I sell a piece I have always felt that the sale was final. It now belongs to the buyer. What the buyer does with that piece is no longer a concern of mine. If my work attains some lofty status while I am still alive and buyers pay large sums for future work that would be great. That senario in the art world rarely happens. Keeping track of thousands of paintings is difficult to imagine.

From: Sarah22 — Dec 13, 2011

Laura, you made many good points !! Also, our copyright laws in the U.S. state that we artists still own our image/painting, unless we specifically sign over copyright. So shouldn’t we be getting royalties off that remaining ownership ?

From: marj vetter — Dec 13, 2011

Well, when I sell my car, does that mean I have to give a portion of the proceeds to GM, Ford, Kia, or who ever?

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges — Dec 13, 2011

Visual Artists are the only artists that do not receive royalties for the resale of the work they have created. Music CD’s, movie CD, reruns on TV, song writers, these are just a few examples of the music and movie industry making money on the resale of their art. I am surprised that so many Artists think that it’s OK for them to sell their creations for less money than the reseller gets. Sure they may take a risk on an artist but so do recording companies, and movie producers. We even have very little to protect us from our images being reproduced and used without our permission. I am tired of the galleries and auction houses using the Visual Artist in the same way third world countries use their labour force.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 13, 2011

With all the greed and underhanded dealings on Wall Street, with gallery owners, dealers and representatives an artist will rarely get paid the true value of his/her work. Not in their lifetime anyway. This is why I keep saying “don’t do this for the money”. Art is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. What is sad is actors and musicians get royalties, why not artists? I disagree with you about collectors sticking their necks out. Historically they buy cheap and re-sell high and who pays – the artists. I read once that Monet saw a work of his sell for millions. When asked how he felt about the high sale price, his response – he felt “…like the race horse that won the Kentucky Derby and all he gets is a bag of oats.” There is little justice in the world.

From: Harding — Dec 13, 2011

I hate to bring the spirits down, but I feel that we would get most profit if we could collect fees from art sent to dumpsters, basements, attics…

From: John Ferrie — Dec 13, 2011

Dear Robert, For nine years, I lived in a building that housed 75 artists. After nine years of listening to artists complain about the lack of funs, the cut backs with arts fundings and the lack of support and finally the just waiting and doing nothing artists. I had to wonder “were they just making bad art?” Buyers are a shrewd bunch these days, it requires some finesse to sell art. Being an artist does not men we just create. We need to get out there, make a name for ourselves, market and promote and sell our works. I read the other day about the comedian Dana Carvy, he said “you have a nack and then it is 10,000 hours”. Being an artist requires a nack and being a successful artist takes another 10,000 hours. I have heard of Carfac and how important it is to support them. Now, I just had a good look at the BC chapter of Carfac. There are a few people who make up the board, they have a nice mission statement and a picture of the president meeting with the Surrey MP to discuss the artists resale right. There was one feature artist and the one member they had was Gathie Falk. They had a cheesy video showing how artists survive in the wild. Oh, and a Paypal button where you could send in money. Im an artist and I couldn’t figure out what they were doing.

From: Sherry Schmidt — Dec 13, 2011
From: Elle Fagan — Dec 13, 2011

This one line sticks: “Five percent seems very little to ask when you consider that the artist, through his or her efforts over many years, is largely responsible for the increased value of their work.” (Joe Fafard, Canadian sculptor) The big truth – all the promoters on earth won’t make a top sale of inferior art. Therefore, if the art has evolved and grown in value, that usually means that the artist has earned and deserves some of all profits from resales, always.

From: George Thompson — Dec 13, 2011

Yeah we tried it in New Zealand. It’s flawed as a philosophy, all creators, builders, architects et al could claim ongoing rights but the original purchaser is the owner of the risk and any ongoing benefits. Artists need to grow up.

From: Catherine Stock — Dec 13, 2011

This whole money business is a real problem. I think the difference between me and many of your other readers out there is that I worked pretty much my whole professional life as an art director, designer, illustrator, and portraitist. I was always having to fulfill others’ expectations and requirements. Often this challenge pushed me to innovative and rewarding solutions, but sometimes I felt reigned in by required and ultimately detrimental changes. I now choose to live modestly so I can be more selective about my work and have plenty of pure creative time. I have a gallery below my studio but as I live in a small rural village, get few visitors and have even fewer sales. This doesn’t bother me at the moment. Perhaps in the hazy future I will load up my car and approach a gallery in Toulouse, Paris or New York, but for the moment, I am content to remain in the slow lane.

From: Mary Moquin — Dec 13, 2011

I was ambivalent on the issue at one point. However, several years ago I went to a talk by James Rosenquist, the well known American Pop artist. He was pushing for similar legislature here in the US. His case was pretty moving. At one point he had run into a spell of bad health, was destitute, uninsured, unable to paint, virtually homeless etc. at the same time his work was selling at auction for 100’s of thousands of dollars that he had originally sold for a song. There was definitely something that just seemed wrong in this scenario.

From: Susan Peck — Dec 13, 2011

I haven’t had enough time to think about it, but how is it any different than musicians getting paid each time their music hits the airwaves, or authors getting a bit when a library uses their books? Just curious…artist all!

From: Carol Morrison — Dec 13, 2011

CARCC (the Canadian Artists Copyright Collective) seems to work well – it requires a bit of online input to record publications where images of your paintings have appeared, but it is nice to get a yearly cheque in the mail. To my surprise, when I attended the CARFAC meeting that was held in Halifax this last summer I found out that it is run by one lady! If ARR can be equally efficiently run it might also be a good idea, although I expressed the opinion at the meeting that I don’t know how small struggling gallery owners can keep up with the paperwork.

From: Karen Blanchet — Dec 13, 2011

I loved your comment about the government being the last organisation to do the job for ARR and I am not sure CARFAC would take on the policing that I suspect would be needed. I go into overwhelm when I think about how to keep track of who is who and which painting is on the auction block but then in the music industry it is really necessary and they manage, perhaps not perfectly. At the moment I am really not concerned as I am not a member of your league. Would like to be. I think I have to sell them in the first place, yes?

From: Katherine Farmer — Dec 13, 2011

It is a season of thankfulness and I want to express how grateful I am to receive your twice-weekly highly intelligent letters. I cannot remember ever disagreeing with you and often feel enlightened by your insight and a touch of humor. I have been studying art and doing art all my life and recognize how blessed I have been creatively if not financially. Please keep up the wonderful contact you have with all of us and here’s wishing you a Blessed Christmas and Successful New Year!

From: Joesph Hutchinson — Dec 13, 2011

Lucky are those that might get a commission on a resale! What if the art work sells at less than the purchase price? Does the artist kick in a percentage of the loss?

From: Barbara Spiegel — Dec 13, 2011

I am a pastelist and you touch on so many issues that I have experienced or thought about. Regarding getting paid: Many creative people get residuals from their creative work. It is not unusual and quite accepted. Visual or other creative works can be used in all sorts of ways after they leave our hands. I don’t find it unreasonable that artists share financially when an image that they created is used for the financial gain of others. I think we would probably already have this opportunity if we had been in a union such as SAG or AFTRA. But we are scattered and not organized for the most part.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Dec 13, 2011

What kind of money are we talking about in Canada and how widespread is this issue? It would be interesting to estimate what percentage of your Canadian readers have significant sales, how much of that are secondary sales, and how much is 5% of that? Would introducing a whole new government service to enforce this be feasible? Are there other things that the government could do to improve conditions or artists that would have wider impact?

From: Linda Anderson Stewart — Dec 13, 2011

I believe …tho it sounds tempting…this would be a nightmare to enforce…and incredibly expensive to run. I suspect it’s been the bailiwick of those whose work now sells for monster prices to pursue this. We also run the risk of scaring folks who might like to buy original art away from even considering it…if we stack fees and make it even more prohibitive to obtain? Think it’s time we all accepted that we will likely never get rich being painters…and that we, perhaps, need pursue our joy in other ways?

From: John F. Burk — Dec 13, 2011

I don’t understand the justification for this. Don’t the artists set their own pricing to begin with? If they enjoy a good sales volume, don’t they traditionally raise their prices something like 10% per year on new and unsold work? Isn’t the buyer entitled to appreciation if the artist is successful? If the buyer becomes a collector, won’t he and she be paying more for additional work, and won’t that support the fact they made a good investment and backed a good horse? If I am misunderstanding the business with any of my questions, I need to hear it. I agree with your attitude, and like you even more for having it.

From: Richard H. Gagnon — Dec 13, 2011

It may be that visual artists are only seeing (pun intended) what the auditory artists have been enjoying for years. As you indicated in the afterthought, royalties are paid when music is played, books are sold by the copy whether in print or electronic, actors (my wife among them) are paid residuals when the movies or sitcoms are played even after they are paid for their roles. Yes there are ways around the fees by internet downloads and the like but there is a system in place to provide support to those with the original idea. Visual artists have been on the short stick for many years. Commissions on resales is one way of doing. Like internet downloads some will try to get around it but for the most part a fee will just be built into the price as a real estate agents fee gets built in or GST is built in. It will become understood and expected. Actually, the second and subsequent buyers should feel that they are like the patrons of old supporting the people who produce the material and ensuring their ongoing productivity.

From: Jean Sullivan — Dec 13, 2011

I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I am sure that using ASCAP and BMI as a model would not work in the artist’s best interest. Many musicians receive none of the fees collected by these groups. A better model would be to look at how screen actors receive residuals. The main difference, I think, is that the Screen Actors Guild makes sure that everyone who had a contract for a movie gets a share of whatever residuals are paid out. ASCAP and BMI are not unions and while they have a strangle hold on collecting fees when songs are played in a public venue, they don’t pay a pro rata to who ever’s songs are being played. Just talk to some musicians who have songs listed with ASCAP or BMI and you will get a better idea of what this is all about. Given that the likely difference between musicians and actors is the presence of a strong and active union that puts another spin on how this would work for artists. Union anyone?

From: Susan Tooke — Dec 13, 2011

I read with interest your comments on the Artist’s Resale Right. I would like to correct you on several points. First of all, I know very few artists on, as you say, the gravy train. Over half of Canadian artists earn less that $8000. per year from their art. Many artists in their senior years are struggling to maintain a decent living. Recent research has shown their average earnings to average $5000, the lowest of any artistic discipline. Many Inuit artists have sold their work for low prices, then see their work sold on line or in a gallery for four to five times the amount they were paid. These artists would welcome the benefit of the ARR. And how much ‘gravy’ would the ARR provide? At the proposed rate of 5%, this is a small amount compared to the fees/commissions levied by auction houses and galleries, which range from 15-20% to buyers. The ARR would not be run by the Government. There are existing collectives experienced and prepared to manage collection of the Artist Resale Right. The Artist’s Resale Right is established in markets around the world, and is reciprocal for artists from countries where it exists. This is not a new idea, having first been introduced by France in 1920, and there are successful management models easily available. It is time that artists be respected and rewarded for their hard work and dedication, which in turn increases the value of their art. Collectors, galleries and auction houses benefit, why not the artist?

From: oliver, Texas — Dec 13, 2011

An artist retains the reproduction rights. You know – coffee table books, posters, cards — sigh– giclee’s etc. This has been the traditional method for artists to get paid again.

From: Arnold — Dec 13, 2011

Maybe some artists are poor because their work is poor.

From: Jack — Dec 13, 2011

One of the main ideas behind ARR is that Aboriginals and First Nations peoples who are often off the beaten track and in some cases have been exploited would receive benefits from the ongoing profiteering of their work. It would be good to at least consider this possibility. On the other hand, we artists live in the “real world” where dealers and collectors get what they can at whatever prices they can and resell at what they think the market will bear. Giving special treatment to First Nations people, while it may protect them in the short run, may also further the dependence they have on bureaucracy and government largess that delays their entry and participation in the main stream. Many First nations people are aware of this danger, while others are simply savvy and know how to drive a hard deal.

From: Peter Worsley — Dec 13, 2011

ARR already exists in California. It is called the California Resale Royalty Act. It kicks in if the resale price is over $1,000.

From: Katherine Tyrrell — Dec 13, 2011
From: Rick Rotante — Dec 13, 2011

California Resale Royalty Act ——————————————————————————- The California Resale Royalty Act (Civil Code section 986) entitles artists to a royalty payment upon the resale of their works of art under certain circumstances. This California law is unique in the United States, although it is a well-established legal right in some other countries of the world. The right of artists to share in the appreciated value of their works when resold is important both in principle and in dollars. However, in part because many artists are unaware of their rights and in part because some artists are reluctant to assert their rights, money due to artists has gone uncollected.

From: Jackie Knott — Dec 14, 2011

As with all well meaning legislation the downside usually doesn’t surface until much later. Some points this discussion has missed: First, if I sell a painting I have established a price *I* think is reasonable compensation for it at the time, even if a gallery doubles the selling price. I was willing to part with it for a specific fee. If I didn’t think it was worth that I wouldn’t have sold it – it’s gone on its merry life and I’ll never see it again. Two, good luck with enforcing this one. How many times a work of art changes hands would be almost impossible to track. Three, yes, musicians get royalties every time their work plays on a radio station because of industry contracts …. but they get nothing from the hundreds of thousands of times people download their music online. Four, every time we rent a movie from Netflex the lovely little copyright warning pops up, yet many have libraries of movies technical breakthroughs allow unlicensed reproduction. They get nothing. My point is, the arts are not equitable and I’m not sure legislation is the answer, nor is it enforcable. There are untold artists in every medium from furniture to textiles and everything in between, from the primitive to the most sophisticated, who will never see their art rise to collector status. So? This is a prime example of good legislation gone bad: in Louisiana they decided they needed to stop the proliferation of drug dealer fueled sales of firearms. The state passed a law NO SECOND HAND ITEM can be sold for cash, period. It must be tracked by check or credit card. The goal was to stop dealers from buying guns on the street and general theft, such as stealing your computer, tools, etc., and reselling them. Instead they have effectively killed everything from antiques, used cars, photography equipment, crafts, to garage sales. The law is being challenged in court but in the meantime it’s crazy. As to not being productive in my old age, tell me who is, whether you’re a realtor, a business owner, a construction worker, or an artist? That’s life.

From: Dianne Mize — Dec 14, 2011

I am mindful of Van Gogh and Mozart both dying paupers while leaving behind works that would bring millions to the pockets of multiple galleries, collectors, performers, producers and others. Maybe it’s unfair, but there’s another side: works of art that continue to be desired beyond their original creators and benefactors speaks to the life that is taken on by the individual work itself. My stance is that once a work is finished, it is on its own. Those of us who create the work need to let go just like parents must let go of their children. I think we run the risk of poisoning our intentions if we crave financial profit to the point of tracking every piece we sell. That energy, I think, is better spent making new paintings. Clarkesville, GA

From: Laurie Landry — Dec 14, 2011

We’re forgetting something here – it is the artists’ hard work, belief in self as an artist, and consistency that adds value to the purchased artwork. It’s the difference between throwing out a value-less artwork because the artist has not done anything to increase their value (ie hobby painter etc); and hanging onto a Jane Smith artwork for value because Jane Smith has repeatedly demonstrated consistency and continuation of their work that makes their pieces valuable. If you sold only a few paintings, and gave up painting because you need to feed and house your family, auction houses aren’t going to be interested in your paintings because you haven’t done anything to prove your value. But if you continue developing a series of bodies of work, and consistently marketed yourself by ways of gallery exhibitions, etc, there’s a good chance your artwork increases in value each year. You do not need to be a Hirst or Koons. The painting you sell for $500 could be resold for $20,000, and all because of your hard-earned efforts. The buyer’s instincts and acumen on taking a chance on you is only but a small yet gratifying part. If you’re artmaking just for the fun of it, then so be it, but professional artists should take themselves seriously and consider their future value as well as current value.

From: Bobby — Dec 14, 2011

If you ask the governments to protect you from your poor financial planning, you will be drowned in bureaucracy. The more you are “protected”, the harder you get hit once the protection falls apart. Just look at what’s going on in Europe right now. Non-profits are the same thing – supported by the governments and they generate bureaucracy – you know all those loops one has to jump through just to be told you don’t measure up for some bizarre reason. We are blessed that we can save our treasure without the bank fees and retirement funds. Save your own paintings for your old age. If you get so famous that you would benefit from the ARR, then you would benefit much more if you just keep a few of your paintings to sell in those last unproductive years. If your paintings have no value, ARR money won’t help you either. Music and movies get played many, many times so royalties can amount to something – how many times might a painting get resold over your life time – twice? As for the aboriginal artists problem – please focus on how to solve that exact problem. If you want to protect aboriginal artists, then do so, why talk about inflicting ARR to the whole art market? Can other people see how crazy that explanation sounds?

From: Bill Horne — Dec 14, 2011
From: Daniel — Dec 14, 2011

Just a few questions that came to mind as I read Robert’s letter and the above replies: Who or what will decide which type of art would qualify to benefit from an ARR? Paintings and sculptures only? What about lovingly-made quilts? Is the line drawn with fine arts or are other artisans and craftspeople allowed to the party too? Will folks like architects and carpenters begin to expect a percentage with every real estate sale? Will an artist who receives a 5% cut from every future sale be charged the difference if a piece sells for less its original value? If not, is it fair to protect the artist and not the speculators?

From: Rudolph Powell — Dec 14, 2011

A thought about those here who have likened selling a painting to musicians who receive royalties on album sales and radio play: They are licensing copies, not original art. Visual artists are also welcome to license their works in a similar manner — they can take the form of numbered prints, giclees, postcards, t-shirts, stock art or several other possible avenues of revenue. Think Keith Haring slapping his work on all manner of bauble with his Pop Shop. To sell a single original item makes the purchaser its new owner, freeing them to do with it whatever they see fit. End of story.

From: Anonymous — Dec 14, 2011

Early clients of mine may have felt they were doing me a favor by buying my work, inexpensive though it was at that time. Maybe they were, as my work was not as good then. I live in California where there is such a program in effect and I am registered with it. It sounds like a good idea, and I wanted to encourage them, but I have had nothing from it yet. Now that my prices are much higher and I am more known nationally, I have heard of some reselling in Arizona. Has anyone else had this experience? Incidentally, this is a fantastic and valuable forum.

From: Bill Horne — Dec 14, 2011
From: Rudolph Powell — Dec 15, 2011

@Bill Horne: Perhaps I should clarify a little. I’d meant that a buyer is able to do (nearly) whatever they see fit with the ‘physical piece’ they’d purchased. In other words, they’re free to hang it upside down, use it as a doormat, tear it to shreds, or just enjoy it on a wall for decades. It’s their investment and they can do with it as they please. Although not a Canadian, I do realize that reproduction rights are not part of that freedom. In trying to make the distinction between buying a painting, and licensing its intellectual property, I realize my message wasn’t perfectly clear.

From: Bill Horne — Dec 15, 2011

Thanks for clarifying, Rudolph; I had wondered if that’s what you meant. However, under the Moral Rights provisions of Canadian © law, I *could* take legal action if a buyer was to hang up a piece of my art in public and place it beside, say, a photograph of the Prime Minister, or a promotion for a tobacco company, etc. Google the famous Michael Snow – Eatons case for an interesting e.g. of this.

From: Gavin Logan — Dec 15, 2011

Art is a commodity that is traded like stamps, coins, cars, antique furniture. Once it is in the market it should be the property of the current owner until disposed of, for better or for worse. Far more stuff actually goes down in value, rather than up. We tend to hear about the stuff that goes up.

From: Nancy Cook — Dec 16, 2011

Another thing to remember — before you deliver your sold painting to the buyer, make sure you have excellent quality film or digital reproductions of the image for your archives. Then, down the road, when you have lost track of the owner and the painting, you or your heirs will still be able to sell the image to a magazine, calendar, or whatever. Especially if it becomes a ‘famous’ painting, or you become a more ‘famous’ artist. You have the reproduction rights to your image, but if you don’t have access to the original for some reason, and you don’t have a good-quality reproduction in your archives, you could be missing out on income from the sale of reproductions of your work.

From: judy — Dec 16, 2011

I hate to say it, but visual art is not only too ubiquitous (everyone can take an image instantaneously with their cell phone), but it is not the top banana when you compare it to any other artform. The movie industry is king. And when you get into any comparisons of visual arts & royalties with the film, music or book industries, you must encompass licensing, reproductions, giclees, commercial art, digital images, etc. Painting is more comparable as an artform to the ballet, opera, & live theatre… non of which are doing as well as film, music, or fiction writing.

From: Aleada Siragusa — Dec 17, 2011

“If such a thing were to happen, government is the last outfit you’d want to run it.” Please don’t assume I agree with you. When you privatize you have a middle man to go thru and they all need to take their share, even non profits get political with high paying executives wanting their cut and who gets hired to run the organization is also political, but removed from our power to vote them out of office. Since the government is in charge of the Copyright Act they should also handle the ARR. As far as payment to the artist; it seems like so little to ask and an artist who thrives makes for work that has a better chance of increasing in value.

From: John Ferre — Dec 17, 2011

Dear Bill Horne, Well, thats kind of rude to chastise me like that on here. I do in fact know who you are. So, don’t talk to me like I am ignorant, because I am not. Actually, if you knew anything, you would know that I have actually attended seminars where representatives from Carfac presented who you were and how you do what it is you are trying to do. I understand that you hope to help artists, especially emerging ones with they’re marketing and promotion. Assist in grants available and how to write a proposal. You want to help artists establish themselves and work with them to show how to arrive their pricing. I know that you want to also further help to establish a liaison with law changing organizations that will further benefit the artistic community. So I have a pretty good idea of what you are trying to do. Funny though, as a relatively established artist here in Vancouver for over 25 years, one who represents himself, market and promotes his own career, operated his own gallery, teaches courses on marketing and promotion for your young artists and pretty much handles every aspect of his own career, you don’t seem to have a clue who I am. But call me anytime, I’d love to help you out. John Ferrie

From: Bill Horne — Dec 17, 2011

Dear John, I did not mean to be rude or to chastise you. I was responding to your comment: “I have heard of Carfac and how important it is to support them. Now, I just had a good look at the BC chapter of Carfac. There are a few people who make up the board, they have a nice mission statement and a picture of the president meeting with the Surrey MP to discuss the artists resale right. There was one feature artist and the one member they had was Gathie Falk. They had a cheesy video showing how artists survive in the wild. Oh, and a Paypal button where you could send in money. Im an artist and I couldn’t figure out what they were doing.” I had the impression from this that you didn’t have a picture of what CARFAC endeavours to do, but perhaps you were referring to the video, and I misinterpreted your remarks. I wasn’t trying to malign who you are or what you do, nor suggest that you are ignorant. At any rate, I’m glad to know that you are familiar with our mandate and I definitely appreciate the support you provide to young artists (though I don’t think of them as mine ;-) Sorry I haven’t had the opportunity to meet you before – I live 10 hours north of Vancouver. Thanks very much for your offer of assistance; I will contact you in the new year to follow up. best wishes, Bill Horne Wells, BC

From: Mark Bushnell — Dec 18, 2011

Interesting post about the ARR. I understand the urge for artists to share in the growing fruits of their labor, i.e. benefitting from an increase in the value of the sale of their artwork. I’d say that was perfectly fair so long as artists also paid a fee to collectors if their earlier sale prices proved inflated. I feel like a curmudgeon saying that, but it seems that if artists want to be rewarded for the increased value of their work that comes from honing their craft, those who let their craftwork slip should also be willing to pay the price. I realize that is an impractical idea, but then again so is the ARR, which just goes to show that there is no reasonable way to put a monetary value on art. Art and money really don’t mix well.

From: Anonymous — Dec 18, 2011

Talk about a cheesy, winey video–that on the CARFAC site. Poor, poor artists, endangered species, my, my.

From: Melissa Gruber — Dec 19, 2011
From: Larry — Dec 19, 2011

Perhaps the primary market artists like myself will benefit from this because our works will be a more attractive product for the dealers.

From: peter Lojewski — Dec 21, 2011

Having read most of the comments I can’t understand why some are against the ARR. Any amount albeit it be only 5% would help the artist to continue to work to create art. Why are some people anti visual artists ?

From: Bill Horne — Dec 22, 2011
     Featured Workshop: Watercolor Art Society
121611_robert-genn Watercolor Art Society Workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

Orange dusk

pastel painting, 14 x 18 inches by Peter Heineman, Morrison, CO, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Doctor Robert of Los Angeles, California, USA, who wrote, “I have included the California ARR law in my sales contracts and, while no one has had anything negative to say about it, there have been no results either.” And also Val Manchuk who wrote, “Good heavens! Imagine the disastrous trickle-down if the government is involved in our art. It is in all of our best interests to fly under the radar, folks. And you can bet your paintbrushes we’d be the last ones to see the ‘benefits.'”    

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.