Elgar Commentaries series
Edited by Irini A. Stamatoudi and Paul Torremans
Chapter 10: THE RESALE RIGHT DIRECTIVE
As the name suggests, the 'droit de suite' originated in France. It was after World War I that French philanthropists lobbied the French Government to create such a right for artists. The need was said to derive from the fact that visual artists were unable to exploit their work to the same extent as other creators. At that time, artists were returning from the war, often penniless. They and their children were starving on the streets of Paris, while their works sold at auction for exuberant amounts, which far surpassed the artist's original recompense. There was a clear inequality between what the artist received for his efforts compared to the savvy art dealer, who created nothing. So, the right was seen as a response to the inequities of the free market and a desire to better balance the fortunes of artists and encourage the production of fine art, which benefited all of society. By virtue of a statute dated 20 May 1920 (later revised by the French Copyright Act of 1957), the droit de suite is an inalienable right whose beneficiaries are artists, then their heirs, to receive, until 70 years after the artist's death, a percentage of the resale price of an original work of art. The works concerned are paintings, collages, drawings, engravings, lithographs, sculptures, tapestry, ceramics, glass ware and photographs. On 25 June 1921 Belgium followed by adopting similar legislation.
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