California Art Royalties Law Struck Down
A Californian law saying that artists could get some of the profits from their work if it was resold was struck down on May 17.
Artists Chuck Close and Laddie John Dill, along with artist Robert Graham's estate, brought a class-action suit against Sotheby's, Christie's and eBay last November, but Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen ruled that the entire law was unconstitutional.
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The law was passed in 1977 as part of the California Resale Royalties Act, but people's adherence to it had been spotty. It was the first American law of of its kind, because "unlike composers, filmmakers or writers, [artists] do not receive a share of any future sales ... under copyright law."
Essentially, the law said that when "a work is resold in California, or is resold by a California owner anywhere else in the world, the seller's agent must pay 5 percent of any sale price over $1,000 to the original artist."
In a particularly potent example of art sold at an increased rate, "Robert Rauschenberg saw his 1958 painting 'Thaw,' originally sold to Scull for $900, bring down the gavel at $85,000" just 15 years later.
The artists' lawyer, Eric George, said that he would appeal, even though Judge Nguyen sits on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the case.
All hope is not lost for artists, though, as a national resale royalty law, known in France as a droit de suite, was introduced in Congress last December, and may indeed bring a little of Europe to America.