Resale Royalties

Resale Royalties

The Royalty Treatment

A self-portait by Chuch Close at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2008. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“In general, I think resale royalties is a pretty good idea,” said painter Chuck Close, who with other artists and artists’ estates filed in 2011 a class-action lawsuit against Christie’s and Sotheby’s for failing to collect and distribute a 5 percent royalty payment for artwork sold on the secondary market, which was required by a 1977 California law. “I know some artists who were successful in the 1960s and ’70s and have since fallen on hard times and could really use the money.” Read More

Resale Royalties

Inside the American Royalties Too Act: Like Composers, Visual Artists May Soon Get Royalties on Sales Made in the U.S. [Updated]


A resale royalty is a percentage of the price of a work of art that is “resold” a second or subsequent time, the money payable to the living artist or to his or her heirs. France was the first nation to adopt a resale royalty provision (known internationally as droit de suite), in 1920. Now, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, more than 70 nations around the world have some form of artist resale royalty statute.

The United States may be next. New York Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler recently introduced the American Royalties Too Act, which is modeled on current laws throughout Europe and would establish a 5 percent “resale royalty” on secondary or subsequent sales at auction of artwork for more than $5,000, with that money going to the individual artists or their heirs. Read More

Resale Royalties

Court Ruling Reminds Art World That California Resale Royalty Law Remains in Effect

(Courtesy walknboston/Flickr)

After suffering a loss in a California district court last month, artists suing auction houses for resale royalties they argue they are owed under state law won a minor legal skirmish on Wednesday. Oddly, their success was the result of having their motion denied by another district court judge.

Earlier this month, Jacqueline Nguyen, a California district court judge who now works at the appellate level, ruled against Chuck Close and other artists and estates who were suing Christie’s, Sotheby’s and eBay for not paying them the five percent royalties that state law requires from secondary-market sales. In her ruling, Judge Nguyen argued that the state’s resale royalties act violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution since it claimed to cover sales in other states. Read More

Resale Royalties

California Court Rejects Resale Royalties Law [Updated]

Chuck Close. (Courtesy Getty Images)

A California court has handed a defeat to Chuck Close and his artist colleagues suing Christie’s and Sotheby’s, attempting to obtain millions of dollars in resale royalties they argue they are owed under state law. According to Thompson Reuters, Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, an appeals court judging sitting in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, ruled that California’s resale royalty act violates the United State Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which affords the federal government with the power to regulate economic activity between states. Read More

Resale Royalties

The California Resale Royalties Law: a Primer

Chuch Close. (Courtesy Getty Images)

“I’ve been working my ass off for you to make that profit?” the artist Robert Rauschenberg said to collector Robert Scull in 1973 as he shoved him after an auction at Sotheby Parke Bernet, at which Mr. Scull sold a number of contemporary artworks for sums far exceeding what he had initially paid. The artists who had produced the works, of course, received nothing.

Three years later, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law the California Resale Royalties Act, which required people selling art to pay five percent of the sales price to the artist, if certain requirements were met. Today, the law is not frequently enforced, and, based on interviews with art market players, not completely understood. However, the law has been thrust into the news of late thanks to two lawsuits. Read More