Monday, November 19, 2007

of Royalties

With interest I have been following the WGA (Writers Guild of America) strike. I have been fascinated by the mega-bucks corporations’ argument that material posted on the net, on which the corporations make loads of money, is just promotional material. Thus no royalties are paid to the people who wrote it. What a load of BS. For those of you who would like to know more have a look at these videos: Tim Kazurinsky on WGN , the writers of The Office, ot the article “Why the Striking Writers Are Right” by Mark Harris.

So, what has this to do with artists in Malta? The whole issue revolves around royalties. Yes its money; that paper stuff that most artists lack. Are artists entitled to a share of what other people do with their creations? Music composers get a share from the sale of CDs; they even get paid royalties if their music is played on radios and TV etc. Writers (even the WGA) also get a share from the sales of their work, and if a story becomes successful and something else is done with it permission is needed. But what about painters, sculptors, graphic artists, photographers etc., are they entitled to royalties too? According to the EU, yes. We artists are entitled to a share of a resale of our work. Ie if a painting I sold 5 years ago is sold today, I am entitled to a percentage of that sale. This was established in Directive 2001/84/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of the 27th September, 2001 on the Resale Right for the Benefit of the Author of a Work of Art.
The reasoning behind the directive is the following - When someone sells a house (or anything else) he does not expect any share from profits made by the resale of the property say 20 years later. Shouldn’t it be the same for paintings? No. What really contributes to the increase in value of an art piece? Is it some attribute pertaining to the present owner or is it the direct result of what the artist did during his career and who the artist has become after a lifetime of work? For a piece of art to increase in its value from when it was first sold there needs to be some basic conditions namely;
1 – the artist and work of art have to be good;
2 – the artist made a name for himself;
3 – the artist is either dead or at the peak of his career.

So an artist today still contributes to the value of a piece of art he sold 30 years ago! I did some research and discovered the following:-
* The Maltese Government has issued a legal notice in 2006, L.N. 174 of 2006 to implement the directive. While asking around, up until now, I have met no artist or their heirs that know about the legal notice.
* The successors in title, ie the artist’s heirs, are only entitled to benefit from the royalties after 2010 or after 2012 if the minister deems it fit. This means that if a painting is sold today, an artist will get the royalties but if tonight he goes to meet the creator and the painting is sold tomorrow his wife/children etc will not receive a penny.
* Royalties are only due if the resale is conducted by a resale professional; this means artists are not due any royalties if the sale is private, ie only if the sale is conducted through an art gallery or an auction etc.
* The royalty shall be calculated as follows
(a) 0% for the portion of the sale price up to and including euros 1,499
(b) 4% for the portion of the sale price from euros 1,500 to euros 50,000
(c) 3% for the portion of the sale price from euros 50,000.01 to euros 200,000
(d) 1% for the portion of the sale price from euros 200,000.01 to euros 350,000
(e) 0.5% for the portion of the sale price from euros 350,000.01 to euros 500,000
(f) 0.25% for the portion of the sale price exceeding euros 500,000 Provided that the total amount of royalty may not exceed euros 12,500 and the sale prices referred to above are net of tax.
The resale right may be exercised by the holder independently or through a collecting society operating under the conditions provided for in the Copyright Act and regulations made thereunder.
What I am interested to know is how are these royalties being collected and who is collecting them? What sort of mechanisms are there to check that royalties are paid?
I think I need to do some more research.

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