U.S. Resale Royalties Bill Introduced by Jerrold Nadler

Congressman Nadler. (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

As artists continue to duel with auction houses in court over resale royalties they say they are owed under a California statute, New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) today introduced a bill that would create resale royalty rights under federal law.

The Equity for Visual Artists Act of 2011 (EVAA) would require auction houses to set aside seven percent of any sale larger than $10,000, with half of that money going to the artist that created the work and half going to nonprofit art museums.

Congressman Nadler said in a statement, “It’s important to ensure that artists are fairly compensated–even more so in difficult economic times, when normal channels of support for artists are less dependable.”

The law would not include auction houses with less than $25 million in annual sales, or those that operate solely on the Internet. In addition, galleries would not be required to set aside resale royalties under the current language.

The Visual Artists and Galleries Association (VAGA) has been among the groups lobbying for a federal statute, for some time, and director Robert Panzer told Gallerist last month that a split distribution of funds between museums and artists was under consideration. Under the proposed bill, “visual artists’ collecting societies”–like VAGA–would be responsible for administering royalty funds.

Some experts believe that the current California resale royalty law (which sets aside a five-percent royalty for artists) may be unconstitutional for a variety of reasons. (More on that here.) A federal statute could sidestep some of those concerns, including the charge that California’s law, in cases in which just one party based in California, attempts to regulate interstate commerce.

Resale royalty laws currently exist in many European countries. In the U.K., new rules are set to take effect that will bring the nation into full compliance with EU standards, and ensure that an artist’s heirs can receive royalties for 70 years following his or her death. That law caps royalties at €12,500 (or about $16,800) per item, while the EVAA has no such limit.


U.S. Resale Royalties Bill Introduced by Jerrold Nadler