The ART Act: New Legislation Proposes Royalties for Visual Artists Based on Secondary Sales

When music is sold, or a poem or novel is purchased, the composer or writer receives a portion of the initial sale or royalties on future sales of copies of the work. The more copies of a song, composition or book that are sold, the greater the royalties the composer or writer may receive. However, this is not true for all copyrightable material, particularly certain works of visual art such as contemporary paintings or sculptures. Unlike music and written works, that are mass produced and distributed, visual art, as noted by United States Copyright Office, “are produced singularly and valued for their scarcity.” The artist may receive a one-time fee or commission for their original work, but such works are often resold at auction with the artist rarely receiving any additional payment.