Artists to raise money when work is resold with copyright law update Pipa News

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OTTAWA — Artists should be paid if their work is resold in a turmoil of copyright laws that would earn them a share of collectors’ profits.

Painters, sculptors and other visual artists can receive compensation when their work is resold at auction and through galleries, in a government move designed to help support thousands of artists currently working below the poverty line.

Under copyright law reforms drafted by the Minister of Innovation Francois-Philippe Champagne and the Minister of Heritage Pablo Rodriguez, according to Champagne’s office, artists would be given a “resale right” by giving them a royalty for the duration of the copyright.

Artists complain that they now get nothing when paintings and sculptures soar in value.

Montreal abstract artist Claude Tousignant, whose painting Accelerateur Chromatique 90 was resold in 2012 for $110,000, is among the artists supporting law reform. He would have received $5,500 if the copyright law changes had been prepared by ministers and in effect when it was resold.

The late Inuk artist, Kenojuak Ashevak, sold a work called Enchanted Owl in 1960 for $24 and it was later resold for $158,500.

“Our government is currently making progress on potential amendments to the Copyright Act to further protect artists, creators and copyright holders,” said Laurie Bouchard, a spokeswoman for Champagne. “Artist resale rights are indeed an important step towards improving economic conditions for artists in Canada.”

CARFAC, which represents Canadian artists, wants artists to receive five percent of the value of their work when it’s resold, and their estate to receive money under copyright rules decades after their death.

It says at least 90 countries, including the UK and France, already have artist resale rights, but Canada is lagging behind, leaving many artists out of their craft because they can’t make a living from it.

There are more than 21,000 visual artists in Canada, and according to the 2016 census, their median income is $20,000 per year from all sources of income.

“It’s important to really recognize that half of our artists live in poverty,” said April Britski, CARFAC’s Executive Director. “We all benefit from art and culture, and our creators deserve a better, more stable income.”

The upcoming bill comes after years of campaigning by Senator Patricia Bovey, the Senate’s first art historian.

Bovey, the former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, said France has had resale rights for more than 100 years and the change in copyright laws is long overdue in Canada.

The senator said she knew many artists who had sold works for small sums early in their careers, and had seen them appreciate “ten times or more.”

Inuit artists, who often live in remote areas and sell locally, are among those who would especially benefit from getting a share of the resale value from galleries and auctions.

“Artists are the group in Canada that makes up the largest percentage of the working poor — below the poverty line,” Bovey said. “It’s our artists who tell us who we are, where we are, what we’re dealing with as a society. If they can’t support themselves financially, we lose that really important window of who we are as Canadians.”

Paddy Lamb, an artist from Edmonton, said it is very difficult to live in art, even for established artists.

He said he had seen works rise in value as artists established themselves and their art was sold in large galleries or auction rooms.

“For Inuit artists, once their work leaves Nunavut, it is immediately appreciated in value — and (the artists) receive none of it,” he said. “This is a tool to empower artists to earn a living.”

He said Canadian artists from artists from countries where resale rights already exist know how important the payouts are in “helping people.”

“Most payouts in the UK come in smaller increments for artists who are not A-list artists,” Lamb said. “In Australia, a lot of that goes to Aboriginal artists. What we’re asking for is a really good level playing field.”

CARFAC Vice President Theresie Tungilik, an artist who lives in Rankin Inlet, said it is “unfair” that artists who see work resold “don’t get a dime from it”.

“I’ve watched the world treat its artists,” she said. “France did this over a hundred years ago and it is important for all Canadian artists, including Inuit artists, that they have the same right.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 6, 2022.

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