California Resale Royalty Act at Center of Artist Lawsuits Against Big Auction Houses
Jan 27, 2012
Los Angeles, CA (Law Firm Newswire) January 26, 2012 – The California Resale Royalty Act entitles artists to be paid five percent of the resale price of their artwork when it is sold in California or by any seller that resides in the state. This includes when property changes hands that encompasses artwork such as a hotel, restaurant, corporate center, or retail store. As such, three class action lawsuits are underway as artists allege that Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and eBay have failed to pay these royalties.
“Many artists do not know this law and are confused by the complexities of it,” said Los Angeles intellectual property attorney Anthony Spotora. “An artist can also ask for the recovery of attorney’s fees when their case is successful. Artists deserve to reap the rewards of their art that has appreciated, so this only makes sense to gain from your creative works.”
The resale royalty act coordinator at the California Arts Council estimates that 400 artists have received total royalties around $328,000, as reported in the New York Times. Sellers are obligated to pay the artist or the estate or heirs when a transaction takes place. California has had this law for 34 years, and laws such as this are far more adhered to in Europe. Christie’s in Europe informs clients that a royalty must be collected at the time of the purchase. Britain and the European Union will have a new standard in 2012 that extends royalties from artists who have passed away in the last 70 years to their heirs and beneficiaries, not just to living artists. Known as a droit de suite law, Europe seems to embrace the concept more willingly.
“California is the only U.S. state to have this type of law that is relevant for both living artists and those who have passed away in the last 20 years,” said Spotora. “A seller must attempt to contact and pay the artist within 90 days or send the royalty to the California Arts Council, who will attempt to find the artist.”
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