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Art world divided over royalty scheme -

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Art world divided over royalty scheme

Broadcast: 18/02/2009

Reporter: Danielle Parry

Last October the Rudd Government announced that it would adopt a scheme that would give Australian
artists the right to a share of the spoils every time their work is resold. The royalty scheme is
modelled on a concept pioneered by the French in the 1920's and was to be in place by the end of
this year. But a row has broken out in the art world, with some claiming that the model that has
been adopted is deeply flawed.


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Last October, the Rudd Government announced it would adopt a concept
pioneered by the French in the 1920s, and since a dotted in many other countries, and give
Australian artists the right to a share of the spoils every time their work is resold.

The plan was to put a royalty scheme in place by the middle of this year. But a row has broken out
over the model that's been chosen, with some claiming it's deeply flawed.

Danielle Parry reports.

DANIELLE PARRY, REPORTER: These students are learning their craft at the National Art School in
inner Sydney.

They're finetuning their skills and learning from the experts. But despite their obvious passion
and talent, most can't make a living from their art.

PSITA DEY, ARTIST: I am a fulltime artist. But I do have to work to survive; pay the bills.

So I have a background in IT which I left three years back, which was a fulltime career, and I just
have to go back into it from time to time to service my bills.

DANIELLE PARRY: Archibald Prize winner Wendy Sharpe is one of the few who makes enough to devote
herself to art full time.

But she's struggled too and knows how hard it can be for most artists to make ends meet.

WENDY SHARPE, ARTIST: I am lucky because I can make a living from it, which is rare. But it took me
a long time before I could do that. For a long time I was always having to do another job, which is
like most artists.

DANIELLE PARRY: But Australian artists have about to get a new financial Lifeline. They're being
promised a share of the spoils every time their work is resold.

The radical shakeup will change the way the art industry does business.

PETER GARRETT, ARTS MINISTER: It's about creating an income stream in the future for artists. As a
musician I know that royalties sometimes provide you with that ongoing income which helps you deal
with the ups and downs of the market.

DANIELLE PARRY: Under scheme an artist will receive five per cent royalty payment every time one of
their pieces is resold at an auction or gallery for more than $1,000.

Dozens of countries have similar royalty programs, and in Australia the right will last for the
artist's life plus 70 years.

ART AUCTIONEER: I will sell, all done.

WENDY SHARPE: Getting some percentage of what's happening, even if it's only a tiny per cent, would
obviously be beneficial and everyone would love that.

LESLEY ALWAY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SOTHEBY'S AUSTRALIA: We in principle disagree with the scheme. We
believe it will be it will be difficult to administer, impossible to regulate and runs a danger of
effecting a fairly fragile art market at the moment.

SOTHEBY'S AUCTIONEER: At $1,600,000 bidding. $1,650,000...

DANIELLE PARRY: Auction house Sotheby's wants the scheme abandoned, fearing it will depress the
market in tough economic times.

SOTHEBY'S AUCTIONEER: Sold! $2,400,000.

LESLEY ALWAY: Any additional costs or taxes is actually going to make them think twice about will
they actually bid or how much are they going to bid for a particular artwork.

JOANNA CAVE, VISCOPY: What would it mean to you to have a scheme that delivered royalties?

DANIELLE PARRY: Joanna Cave has just arrived in Sydney to head up Australia's copyright agency.

She's spent the past two and a half years administering the UK's new resale royalty scheme and says
there's no evidence it put off British buyers.

JOANNA CAVE: There isn't a single example of that happening. Buyers have been happy to pay the
royalty, money's flowed, art market not damaged.

Significantly the UK art market doubled in value after the right was implemented.

DANIELLE PARRY: But despite being among the biggest in principle supporters of a resale royalty
right, Viscopy has its own concerns.

JOANNA CAVE: As the bill is drafted it is fatally flawed. And the risk is that it will deliver
bureaucracy and no money whatsoever. So, there'll be a lose lose situation.

DANIELLE PARRY: A royalty will only have to be paid on existing works when the piece sells for a
second time after the scheme comes in.

The Minister says it's only fair that people know what they're viable for when they buy a piece of

PETER GARRETT: They need to have the certainty that the work that they're purchasing has this right
attracted to it.

DANIELLE PARRY: The arts lobby thinks that could take far too long.

JOANNA CAVE: Artworks are not bought and sold willy nilly all the time. Sometimes an art work might
be bought once, kept for 50 or 60 or 70 years in a collection before it reaches the resale market,
or even longer.

So, some artists won't see any royalties during their lifetime.

DANIELLE PARRY: The Federal Government says delivering a fairer deal to Indigenous artists is one
of its primary goals.

PETER GARRETT: Indigenous artists have been missing out so here is an opportunity for Indigenous
artists whose work does go up in value to be able to share some of the benefit of that value in the
future, and also for their heirs and successors.

DANIELLE PARRY: But the right will come too late for many Aboriginal painters who sold their work
for a pittance decades ago and have since died. Any royalties owed to them will eventually flow to
the artist's estate.

ARTSLAW LAWYER: Most of you are artists and you will have artworks that you can leave to your
children or your grandchildren...

DANIELLE PARRY: Lawyers from the Arts Law Centre have been travelling to Aboriginal communities
like this one on Melville Island to draw up wills for artists, explaining how they want their
royalties distributed.

ARTSLAW LAWYER: Each time they sell it, a little bit comes back to you as the artist.

ARTSLAW LAWYER 2: We hold a little work shop where we explain to them what wills were and why they
were useful, and inevitably everybody wanted to have a will drafted.

DANIELLE PARRY: But some fear extending the right after an artist's dies is too complicated to

LESLEY ALWAY: If this scheme is implemented we really would advocate it only should apply to live
artists, which really, as we understand it, is the real purpose of the legislation announced by the

PETER GARRETT: I think that we've got the design of this resale royalty scheme right. It delivers
for Indigenous people, it delivers for non-indigenous people, it provides a right for painters, for
visual artists, which they never had before.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Danielle Parry with that report.