OTTAWA – Artists get paid when their work is resold in a jolt of copyright laws that would give them a slice of the collectors’ profits.
Painters, sculptors and other visual artists are on their way to getting paid when their work is resold at auction and by galleries, in a move by the government designed to help support thousands of artists currently working below the poverty line.
According to the Champagne office, under the copyright law reforms, drafted by the Minister of Innovation François-Philippe Champagne and the Minister of Heritage Pablo Rodriguez, artists would get a “resale right” by giving them a royalty during the duration of copyright, according to the Champagne office.
Artists complain that they now get nothing if the paintings and sculptures greatly increase in value.
Montreal abstract artist Claude Tousignant, whose painting Accélérateur Chromatique 90 was resold in 2012 for $ 110,000, is among the artists who support the reform of the law. He would have received $ 5,500 if the copyright law amendments prepared by the ministers had been in effect when it was resold.
The late Inuk artist, Kenojuak Ashevak, sold a work called Enchanted Owl in 1960 for $ 24 and was later resold for $ 158,500.
“Our government is currently working on potential amendments to the Copyright Act to further protect artists, creators and copyright holders,” said Laurie Bouchard, spokeswoman for Champagne. “Resale rights for artists are really an important step towards improving economic conditions for artists in Canada.”
CARFAC, which represents Canadian artists, wants artists to get five percent of the value of their work when it is resold and their property to be funded under copyright rules decades after their death.
It says at least 90 countries, including the UK and France, already have resale rights for artists, but Canada is lagging behind, prompting many artists to give up their craft because they can’t make a living with it.
There are over 21,000 visual artists in Canada, and according to the 2016 census, their median income is $ 20,000 annually from all sources of income.
“It’s important to really recognize that half of our artists live in poverty,” said April Britski, executive director of CARFAC. “We all benefit from art and culture and our creators deserve a better and more stable income.”
The impending change to the law follows years of campaigning by Senator Patricia Bovey, the first art historian in the Senate.
Bovey, former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, said that France has held the resale rights for over 100 years and that the change in copyright laws is overdue in Canada.
The senator said she knew many artists who had sold works early in their careers for small sums and had seen them appreciated “by 10 times or more”.
Inuit artists, who often live in remote areas and sell locally, are among those who would especially benefit if they got a slice of the resale value in galleries and auctions.
“Artists are the group in Canada that makes up the highest percentage of working poor, below the poverty line,” said Bovey. “It is our artists who tell us who we are, where we are, what we have to face as a society. If they can’t support themselves financially, we’ll lose that really important window into who we are as Canadians. ”
Paddy Lamb, an Edmonton-based artist, said it’s very difficult to make a living in the arts even for established artists.
He said he saw the works rise in value as artists established themselves and their art was sold in major galleries or auction rooms.
“For Inuit artists, as soon as their work leaves Nunavut, they immediately appreciate its value … and (artists) don’t get any of that,” he said. “This is a tool to allow artists to make a living.”
He said Canadian artists know from artists in countries where resale rights are already in place, how important payments are to “help people”.
“Most of the payments in Britain come in smaller increments to artists who are not A-list artists,” Lamb said. “In Australia, a lot of this goes to Aboriginal artists. What we are asking for is a really good level playing field ”.
CARFAC vice president Theresie Tungilik, an artist living in Rankin Inlet, said it is “unfair” that artists who see a resold work do not “get a dime out of it.”
“I have observed how the world has treated its artists,” he said. “France did it over a hundred years ago and it is important for all Canadian artists, including Inuit artists, to have the same right.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 6, 2022.
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