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Artists lobby for royalty rights of the dead

Artists have unanimously backed a proposal to award resale royalties to artists after their death, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) has said. The art trade has almost unanimously rejected the plan.13 Nov 2008

A European Union Directive introduced into UK law in 2006 allows artists to claim a portion of the sale price of their works even if the work is sold by a third party. The law only applies if the artwork in question is still in copyright.

The UK has only introduced the right for living artists, though. It intended to extend the right to a resale royalty to dead artists' estates in 2010, but has now asked the artistic community if it should continue to exclude dead artists' estates until 2012.

The UK-IPO said that 90% of the 400 respondents to its consultation said that they supported giving dead artists' estates the royalty in 2010, not 2012.

"All of the artists and artists' estates who expressed an opinion on the derogation have said that they thought that it should be allowed to lapse," said a UK-IPO statement. "All bar two of the often detailed responses from the art trade were in support of extending the derogation until 2012."

Works of art are often sold for very large sums of money, but not by the artist. A successful artist will typically sell an entire collection at once. If works from those collections subsequently become worth large sums then it is the buyer, not the artist, who benefits.

The resale royalty gives the artist the chance to benefit from large subsequent sales. It only applies to sales over €1,000 and the maximum royalty is €12,500. The percentage royalty is calculated on a sliding scale.

The royalty only applies to works which are protected by copyright, which lasts for the duration of the artist's life plus 70 years.

"Several UK collecting societies and representatives of other rights made submissions saying that the derogation should be allowed to lapse in order that resale right is brought into line with the other types of copyright," said the UK-IPO statement.

The UK-IPO said that it will conduct further analysis of the consultation results, and that if the Government does decide to try to extent the period in which it excludes the dead from the royalty it must make a case to the European Commission by the end of the year.