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CARFAC Makes Case for Artist’s Resale Right at World Intellectual Property Organization

In May 2017, Grant McConnell, Past-President of CARFAC National and Bernard Guérin, Executive Director of RAAV (le Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels) attended the World Intellectual Property Organization meeting in Geneva to speak in support of the Artist’s Resale Right.  Here is Grant’s full intervention statement that he presented to the Committee, followed by his report on the WIPO meeting.  CARFAC National would like to thank Grant and Bernard for their hard work and dedication to making the case for the Artist’s Resale Right, and its importance to artists in Canada and around the world.

CARFAC Intervention, World Intellectual Property Organization, SCCR 34, May 1 – 5, 2017, Geneva

Prepared by Grant McConnell, CARFAC National Past-President:

We are here today representing creator organizations from a country that doesn’t currently have Artist’s Resale Right (ARR), so it is only natural that I speak about the centrality of the original work of art in today’s art economy.

ARR is not new, having been around for almost one hundred years. ARR is certainly not a charity, nor is it a tax. ARR is fair and just recognition that the artistic creation builds in value over time, and that this should be recognized through modest compensation to the originating artist or their estate.

In the spirit of the notion that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, we would urge this body to pursue vigorously international guidance with regard to ARR, so that Canadian artists, and those artists who currently do not have ARR in their country, may soon benefit from what has become the ‘world standard’.

From left: Bernard Guérin, Executive Director or RAAV and Grant McConnell, Past-President of CARFAC National in Geneva for the WIPO meetings on ARR

It’s almost unthinkable that in 2017, any working artist in Canada wouldn’t have a grasp of the main provisions of what the Artist’s Resale Right would provide for artists here. CARFAC and RAAV, staff and volunteers, with the support of numerous fellow creator organizations, have been working for many years to bring this right, (a modest payment at the time of resale of a work of art to the creator or their estate), to Canada. It’s also almost unimaginable that a country that has been in the lead internationally on many fronts regarding cultural policy, (exhibition royalties, right of artists to organize and bargain, and status of the artist legislation are just a few), would be looking on from the sidelines as more than eighty countries in the world recognize the fairness and importance of Artist’s Resale Right in their laws.



Canada and The World Standard: Working to Bring the Artist’s Resale Right Home

Prepared by Grant McConnell, CARFAC National Past-President, June 2017:

With my friend and colleague Bernard Guérin, Executive director of RAAV, (Regroupement des artists en arts visuel du Quebec), I attended the International Conference on Artist’s Resale Right in Geneva, April 27 – 28 of this year.  Darrah Teitel and Marcia Lea attended last year, paving the way for CARFAC to be recognized as a full WIPO NGO delegation. With the support of Access Copyright, I was also able to attend sessions the following week organized by the United Nations body W.I.P.O., (World Intellectual Property Organization), related to many copyright issues pertinent to cultural creators in the evolving digital economy. The fact that, at the instigation of representatives from Senegal and Congo, a conference of this international body devoted such time and effort to extending the reach of ARR is noteworthy. Senegal and Congo, like Canada, have seen works by their artists sold abroad for multiples of the price at the time of their original sale. A fair return to the artist on resale, as well as ‘traceability’, (establishing a transparent record of how the artwork has been marketed), are important factors for the original creator.

As it was described at length at the conference by researchers and artists, the world economy for art is large. Very Large. Ms. Celine Moine, a researcher and art dealer who very much supports the artist as central to the art economy, estimates that 500,000 occurred worldwide in 2016 alone. This involves over 300,000 businesses, and tens of billions of dollars exchanging hands. She contends that from this forensic analysis of the art market, it is anything but fragile, as opponents to ARR suggest. Canada is home to four of the top five hundred artists sold at auction in 2016. Even in Canada, a small market by comparison, the value of work traded at auction and through dealers is substantial. The art economy here is actually quite healthy and can clearly sustain the modest sum paid to the artist through ARR, and the ‘traceability’ of an artwork that a collecting agency would establish would be a real benefit to artists. No, the sky will not fall if the Resale Right is made law in Canada.

Janet Hicks, (Artist’s Rights Society, N.Y.), talking about the prospects of bringing ARR to the U.S. Seen here, a map of who ‘has’ Artist’s Resale Right. No red dots in North America. We’re working on it.

Representatives from the Canadian government, (Department of Heritage, and Industry, Science and Economic Development) were also at the conference and associated meetings, so many of the reasonable, pressing arguments for extending ARR to Canada were heard and hopefully noted by them. They heard Herve di Rosa, a French artist, talk about the importance of a low threshold at which ARR would kick in at the time of the sale, as 99% of art sales are for less than $10,000 U.S.

This point is particularly important for a small market such as ours. They heard Katheryn Grady, an economist at Brandeis International Business School in Massachusetts declare that, after an extensive study that she and colleagues were commissioned to do in Britain after the ARR was established, there was no negative effect on the art market there, but a notable increase in activity in the period studied. They were there to hear Mark Stevens, London-based lawyer and Chair of DACS, UK, make the ‘clarion call’ that ARR should be universally accepted and enforced as a recognition of its underlying principles. And James Sey, a Johannesburg art dealer and auction business owner, who recounted how countries that don’t have ARR, (South Africa is also on this shrinking list), continue to witness the rights abuses of artists as royalties go unpaid.

And we were all there to hear Ivujivik, Quebec based artist Mattiusi Iyaituk make a impassioned argument for the ARR, not for himself, but his children. Art must be connected to community, to everyone that falls within its reach, economically and otherwise. His [Mattiusi Iyaituk] was the most palpable demonstration of why we need this right in Canada, as he recounted the sale of a work of sculpture from his home studio for $250, only to see it in a gallery in Vancouver a short time later. Price: $5,000.

Artist Mattiusi Iyaituk. Photo by Grant McConnell.

In her article covering the conference for Agence France Presse, journalist Nina Larson makes note of some of the obstacles faced in extending the ARR.  WIPO chief Francis Gurry insists it is only fair for artists to benefit from a booming global art market, which raked in sales of more than $63 billion in 2015. “This should really be a no-brainer,” he told AFP.

“There has been opposition from some countries and auction houses in particular to granting the resale right over fears it could negatively impact the art market.” But Gurry said those fears were proven baseless after Britain finally folded to EU pressure and granted the right in 2006. “Sotheby’s and Christie’s didn’t collapse overnight. They are still there, they are still doing well,” he said. “All of the available evidence suggests that this is not disruptive to the art market,” he said, voicing hope an international deal could be achieved within three years.”

For Bernard and I it was incredibly gratifying to see artists, and many art professionals, dispense with the objections to the Resale Right in very short order. We are well aware of our opponent’s straw man tactics. And in Geneva there were national delegates who spoke against a broader application of ARR internationally. ‘We can’t afford ARR in a fragile economy’, ‘it’s too complex to manage efficiently’, ‘buyers and sellers won’t like it’, and on and on. For the eighty-plus countries that have now enacted the ARR, these arguments haven’t stood up under scrutiny or in practice. The art market just seems to grow as time goes on.

Meret Meyer, granddaughter of Marc Chagall, at the Artist’s Resale Right Conference in Geneva. “Lovers of art must also be lovers of equity. ..Artists do not live on air alone.” Photo by Grant McConnell

The United States and China, two of the four largest art markets in the world, don’t have the Resale Right. This makes it particularly difficult for us in Canada, when a common question put to anyone who proposes change in economic practices is ‘what do they do in States?’.

That a United Nations body, WIPO, with the active support of CISAC, (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers), is moving this toward a universally adopted resolution, is significant. Hopefully the ‘multilateral’ face of Canada that we’ve been seeing on the world stage lately will carry the day. The time has come, for the mature art economy that we have built, that we enjoy. This has become, after all, a world standard.

If you are interested in viewing video of the Geneva conference, visit the WIPO website: and go to video on demand.

Article reprinted with permission by the author and publisher. CARFAC SASKATCHEWAN Newsletter, July/August 2017, Vol. 9, No. 24 page 3-6.