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The Globe on Droit de Suite

The Globe and Mail's Val Ross has an interesting piece on a brewing Canadian copyright battle in the art world.


  1. OK, what am I missing here…

    Assume I am an art dealer (I\’m not); I buy a piece from the artist to sell in my gallery. Now if I want to make a catalogue of the products I have for sale I have to license the image from the artist? Why?!?

    If I want to sell my car I don\’t have to license the image from Honda before I put the ad in the paper.

    \”Usually, artists are poor and collectors rich, so the principle is a good one.\” Pardon! What on earth does that have to do with it? I\’m sorry the artist is poor. They agreed on a sale price for their art, the fact that they are poor does not give them the right to extort additional funds after the sale.

    I could understand it if some one was making replicas of the artists work and selling them; then the artist could feel that some one was exploiting them. But a catalogue?

    Can some one explain this to me, I know I have to be missing something!

  2. Dwight Williams says:

    As a sometime cartoonist…
    …I have to admit to finding this odd myself. I’d certainly want to hold onto certain rights even after selling my original art boards, but this seems a very odd thing to make a sticking point of. Potentially cutting my own profit-making throat, in fact.

    Far better to push for contact info of my choosing to be included with catalogue entries of any of my works to be sold by the gallery in question, should their clientele wish to commission me directly for additional works, yes?

  3. In response to Stacy
    For arguments sake, suppose you are an art gallery, and you make a profit every time you sell an artist\’s work. As a gallery you advertise your “wares” by making a reproduction of that work in a catalogue to entice buyers. Let\’s say you are fortunate enough to be exhibiting a very prominent work and essentially by having that work you are boosting your gallery\’s reputation (which translates to buyer interest and eventually purchase – why should an artist not get a kick back? Where would your gallery be without their creation? By paying a licensing fee you, as an art gallery, you are paying the artist more than the usual %, but in the end (if all goes well) you will still make a profit. Buyers aren\’t telepathic and they often rely on catalogues to know what is available.

    Licensing fees and droit de suite seem to be a bit convoluted in this article. Droit de suite is the economic right vested in visual artists to receive a % of money from the secondary sale (or any sale thereafter) of their work. Normally the primary sale isn\’t very lucrative for the artist and so in the EU they have legislated to compensate for that loss with the droit de suite. The droit de suite is very contentious and it may not be ideal for art market professionals but its all business and the artists have just as much right to exploit those market players who exploit them.

  4. I believe that much of the problem is that droite de suite persists for many years 50? 75? after the artists death. So any sellor must peruse two or three generations of wills to determine and track down the perhaps a hundred relatives who have a right to some obscure percentage of the droite de suite. This is at best expensive and often impossible. The idea may have some justice and merit behind it but without a reliable and efficient registry it fails in practice and prevents people from selling art work.

    Oh yes. Suppose I paint a mural on a wall in my house. Do I acquire a droite de suite on the house, so I get income every time the house is sold for the next 100 years? Can the new homeowner cancel the droite de suite by simply painting over the mural or does this violate my moral rights?

    What a mess. It seems the purpose of copyright law is to create so many rights that it is impossible to make a clean sale of anything anymore.