(Ottawa) An artist could receive royalties if one of his works is resold, according to a planned reform of the copyright law.
Painters, sculptors and other creators of visual art would be paid if a work was resold at auction or by an art gallery.
The reform of the copyright law is currently being prepared by the Minister for Innovation, François-Philippe Champagne, and his colleague for Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez. It provides that artists, sculptors and photographers would obtain “a resale right” which would provide them with royalties of 5% during the period covered by the copyright, according to Mr. Champagne’s firm.
At present, artists denounce the fact of not receiving a penny if a work whose value may have greatly increased since its creation is resold by a collector.
For example, the late Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak sold a print in 1960 titled The Enchanted Owl for $24. This work was later resold for over $158,000.
Another example: Montreal artist Claude Tousignant would have obtained $5,500 when reselling his painting Chromatic Accelerator 90 in 2012 if the resale right had existed at that time.
“Our government wants to introduce changes to the copyright law in order to further protect artists, creations and copyright holders, said a spokesperson for the Minister of Champagne, Laurie Bouchard. The resale right is an important step towards improving the economic conditions of artists in Canada. »
The Canadian Artists’ Front (CARFAC) and the Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Québec want a resale right to come into force, allowing visual artists to collect 5% of the proceeds from the resale of their works. Estates could also benefit.
The resale right exists in more than 90 countries, including the United Kingdom, India and throughout the European Union. Canada is lagging behind, forcing many artists to give up making a living from their art.
According to 2016 census data, Canada had 21,000 visual arts creators. Their combined average annual income was $20,000.
It is important to recognize that half of our artists live in poverty. We all benefit from art and culture. Our creators deserve a higher and more stable income.
April Britski, Executive Director of CARFAC
Senator and art historian Patricia Bovey has been defending the idea of copyright reform in the country for several years. She mentions that the resale right has existed in France for more than 100 years.
She says she knows several artists who sold works for tiny sums early in their careers. They then found that the value of some of them had multiplied “by 10, if not more”.
Inuit artists, who often live in isolated areas and sell their work on the local market, could benefit from a resale right.
“Canadian artists have the highest percentage of working people living in poverty in the country. In fact, many live under the sole poverty, deplores Mme Bovey. It is our artists who describe who we are, where we are and what we will face as a society. If they can’t support themselves financially, we’re going to lose a window into who we are as Canadians. »
Paddy Lamb, an article based in Edmonton, says it is very difficult for an artist to make a living from his art. He mentions that the value of a work can jump if an author becomes known among collectors.
“The works of Inuit artists gain in value as soon as they leave Nunavut, but they don’t benefit at all,” he laments. [La réforme] is a means that allowed artists to live to earn a good living. »
Lamb says Canadian artists have learned from their counterparts in resale right countries that these royalties “really help them.”
“A majority of royalties in Britain are small sums paid to artists who are not the most renowned, he underlines. In Australia, a significant portion is given to Aboriginal artists. What we are asking for are fairer rules. »