Artists, unlike authors and composers, rarely benefit from resale of their works. When enacted, an artist resale royalty, aka droit de suite, provides artists an opportunities to profit from the increased value of their works over time. This right originated in France in the 1920s and has been a general practice throughout Europe. In the United States droit de suite is not a part of the Copyright law and once the artist sells his or her creation, he or she is not entitled to collect a percentage of the resale value despite the fact that for other works covered by the Copyright Act, the system does provide economic benefits after works enter the market place.

California is the only States that has its own law regarding the resale rights Resale Royalty Act (California Civil Code Section 986). However CA Resale Royalty Act has been challenged as unconstitutional in Estate of Graham v. Sotheby’s Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77262 (C.D. Cal. May 17, 2012). For additional coverage of this case, please read CA District Court Finds State Resale Royalty Unconstitutional.

Now, the US Copyright Office has been asked by Congress to review how the current copyright legal system affects and supports visual artists. The Copyright Office will try to determine “whether the system is as advantageous for certain artists of visual works.” They will review “how the current copyright legal system affects and supports visual artists; and how a federal resale royalty right for visual artists would affect current and future practices of groups or individuals involved in the creation, licensing, sale, exhibition, dissemination, and preservation of works of visual art.”This initial notice of inquiry seeks comments from the public on the means by which visual artists exploit their works under existing law as well as the issues and obstacles that may be encountered when considering a federal resale royalty right in the United States.

On September 19, 2012, US Copyright Office issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking comments from the public as it considers pros and cons of a federal resale royalty right in the United States. Comments to the Notice of Inquiry are due by the end of the workday on November 5, 2012.

Source: U.S. Copyright Office.