Edited by Ruth Towse
Chapter 55: Resale Rights
1 Victor Ginsburgh The resale right (RR) is the right enjoyed by the author (and his/her heirs, since the right runs for 70 years after the author’s death) of an original work of art to an economic interest in its successive sales. According to the Directive of the European Parliament,2 the right is supposed to ensure that artists benefit from successive ‘exploitations’3 of their work. All EU countries had to comply with the Directive before 1 January 2006, although derogations were possible.4 In principle, the right extends to all resales, with the exception of transactions between persons acting in their private capacity. The royalty is calculated as a percentage of the sale price, and not of the increase (or decrease) in value of works. Economists (and lawyers) who analyse the economic consequences of RR generally reach the conclusion that it is inefficient. Those who are in favour of its introduction tend to concentrate upon the uneven bargaining position between the artist and the art dealer, and condemn the profits that dealers and auction houses supposedly reap from the artist’s labour. Whether or not these injustices can be corrected by introducing RR is dealt with from a protectionist perspective and, consequently, the deeper implications of the right are not usually analysed.5 It is suggested here that not only would RR worsen the position for the contemporary artist, but it would also have a detrimental effect on international art trade for the states in which it is introduced. As I shall...
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