U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin
Press Release

Baldwin, Markey and Nadler Introduce Legislation to Level the Playing Field for American Visual Artists

“Our quality of life is improved when artists and arts organizations can make valuable contributions to our communities in Wisconsin and across the country.”

By - Apr 16th, 2015 11:06 am

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced legislation to level the playing field for visual artists in the United States by establishing copyright protections for their intellectual property.

“Our quality of life is improved when artists and arts organizations can make valuable contributions to our communities in Wisconsin and across the country,” said Senator Baldwin, who serves on the National Council on the Arts. “The ART Act is a commonsense measure that helps protect the intellectual property of our artists. Just as our copyright laws extend to musicians and authors to encourage their artistic creativity, they should also apply to our visual artists.”

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) said, “The creativity of America’s visual artists is a currency that should be properly valued, and the ART Act ensures they are fairly compensated for their work. More than 70 other countries provide visual artists’ copyright protections for their intellectual property, and the ART Act brings the United States in line with the international community so that American artists can receive reasonable royalties when their works are sold overseas. I thank Senator Baldwin and Rep. Nadler for their partnership on this legislation that ensures we recognize these important contributors to our culture.” 

“We have made great progress in the past year in building support for the ART Act, but our work is not yet done,” said Congressman Nadler (D-NY), who first introduced a version of the ART Act in 2011 and serves as the Ranking Democrat on the Courts, Intellectual Property, and Internet Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. “I have spent the past year speaking directly to artists and at forums with lawyers and others who specialize in art and intellectual property issues to discuss the merits of the proposal.  The idea has been embraced and endorsed by many Members of Congress, and we have discussed the legislation in formal hearings within the House Judiciary Committee.  At a time when more than 70 other countries properly compensate visual artists for their work, it is time for the United States to do the same. I am proud to join Senators Baldwin and Markey in this effort to bring some small measure of fairness to American visual artists.”

Under current copyright law, visual artists – painters, sculptors, and photographers – are denied the ability to fully benefit from the success of their work over time. Unlike recording artists or publishers who, if successful, sell thousands of copies of their work and recoup a royalty from each purchase, artists sell their work only once.  If they are successful, the price of their work increases but they recoup nothing if their original work is resold at a much higher price. The benefits derived from the appreciation in the price of a visual artists’ work typically accrues to collectors, auction houses, and galleries, not to the artist.  In addition, United States artists are at a disadvantage in the global art market where more than 70 other countries have provided resale royalty rights for visual artists.  The American Royalties, Too (ART) Act of 2015 remedies this inequity by providing a modest resale royalty right for visual artists.

The ART Act would:

  • Provide a competitive resale royalty of five percent of the sales price (up to $35,000) for any work of visual art sold at auction for $5,000 or more.
  • The resale royalty applies to any auction where the entity conducting the auction has sold at least $1 million of visual art during the previous year.
  • Royalties are collected by visual artists’ copyright collecting societies who must distribute the royalties to the artists or their heirs at least four times per year.
  • Allows U.S. artists to collect resale royalties when their works are sold at auction in the E.U. and more than 70 other countries.
  • The ART Act requires further study by the Copyright Office after five years to determine the effects of the resale royalty on the art market and whether it should be expanded to cover works sold by dealers and other art market professionals.

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