New Federal Bill Would Require Royalty on Artwork Sales Over $10K: The Equity for Visual Artists Act of 2011 (EVAA)
On Thursday, December 15, Congress introduced a bill that would require large art auction houses, like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, to pay a 7% royalty on artwork sales over $10,000. The new bill would only affect artwork by living artists and dead ones whose work is not yet part of the public domain (this takes 70 years after the artist’s death).
If approved, the bill would change existing copyright law and make it so that the proceeds would not just go to the artist and/or heirs, but also, 50% of the royalty would go to a new federally monitored art acquisition fund to help nonprofit museums buy art by living, U.S.-based artists.
There have long been re-sale royalty laws in many European countries. The bill is being sponsored by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). Kohl and Nadler are supporters because they believe that the bill will result in greater economic fairness for artists. The reality is that the way things stand today, big money is usually made in the art world only years after the artist first sells his work. This added value during the resale usually goes only to the current owner of the work, and not to the artist.