Rethinking Artists’ Rights Roundtable: The American Royalties Too Act

In the 1960s-90s, public protests and open hearings surrounding artists’ resale royalties, moral rights, and free speech were activated by participants across the art world. In the 1980-90s, collaboration with law and policy makers were fraught with questions about cultural and legal norms of ownership and free speech. As we re-examine this history during this time of heightened political engagement, how might the art community re-engage with issues of artists’ rights as local politics? And how do we come to terms with the use of artists and artist rights in the larger context of ‘culture wars’ and anti-intellectualism deployed in the political field today? This three-part roundtable series will bring together practitioners from art and law to unpack the legacies of particular artists’ rights statutes, and imagine new ways forward.

During the third session of this series, we will explore The American Royalties Too Act. Over 70 countries have laws granting resale royalties for artists, but no federal law exists in the United States, and the most recent proposed legislation, H.R. 1881, died in congressional committee. The California Resale Royalties Act, Cal. Civ. Code is the exception, but a suite of court decisions in recent years have dissolved its enforceability. The status of resale royalties laws will be discussed, in addition to historic and emerging alternatives such as artist’s contracts.

Read more about The American Royalties Too Act here.

Lauren van Haaften-Schick is a PhD Candidate in the History of Art at Cornell University researching artists’ interventions in the legal system and legal norms since the 1960s. Her curated exhibitions include “Non-Participation” (2014-16) and “Canceled: Alternative Manifestations & Productive Failures,” (2012-14) traveling in the US and abroad. From 2015-17 she was Associate Director of the Art & Law Program, New York, where she was a Curatorial Fellow in 2012. Lauren has received grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art among others, and has been a guest speaker at universities and art institutions internationally.

Kenneth Pietrobono is an artist, arts worker, activist and cultural advocate working in New York City. He is a member of the activist group, Occupy Museums, an appointed member of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for the CreateNYC Cultural Plan and an alumnus of the Art Law Program in New York City.

Donn Zaretsky is a graduate of Yale Law School and a partner at John Silberman Associates PC in New York, concentrating his practice in art law. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at NYU Law School, where he teaches a seminar in Advanced Topics in Art Law. He is the author of The Art Law Blog and his writings on art law have also appeared in The Art Newspaper and Art and Auction.

Image caption: Senator Alphonse D’Amato (R-New York) denouncing NEA funding to Andres Serrano, May 18, 1989.