Originally written Nov. 10, 2018
The federal government is considering implementation of an Artist Resale Royalty (ARR) as part of its 5-year statutory review of the Copyright Act, but with an election approaching the window is closing on time left to make changes.
The House of Commons committee on industry, science, and technology (INDU) heard conflicting testimonies on how ARR’s would impact the Canadian art market on Wednesday.
Mark London, president of the Art Dealers Association of Canada, said the implementation would be detrimental for an artist’s ability to remain competitive in the market.
London said ARR’s are not “inherently” a copyright issue, as a sale of artwork simply means a transfer of ownership, not copyright.
“Part of the value of a work of art is its perceived rarity and also the fact that someone owns it free of any and all incumbencies,” he said.
If implemented, ARR’s would entitle visual artists to receive a royalty payment of 5 per cent every time their work is sold publicly, said April Britski, executive director of the National Association of Visual Artists (NAVA). Britski maintained that the ARR is not a tax, and would not be collected, spent, or administered by the government. How the fee is administered could be decided upon by the market.
“We just need a legal framework,” she said.
But, London said the technicalities of the fee are unimportant as the additional cost is being passed to the consumer either way.
“Semantics will matter little to those who will come up against it,” he said.
London argued that the regulation will result in an increase of private sales and public auctions moving across the boarder to the U.S., as consumers try and evade the cost.
The art world is “too precarious” to risk the implementation of an ARR, he said.
“Artists are the primary producers of culture in this country,” Britski said.
She said the fee was long overdue as artists are not being adequately compensated for their work. Britski also nodded to over 90 countries that have implemented ARR’s, including the entire European Union.
However, London pointed to Australia which is comparable Canada because of its size and Indigenous population. Following Australia’s implantation of ARR’s, the art market went from $28 million to $10 million in just a year, and dropped to $8 million following that, he said.
Brian Masse, vice-chair for the New Democratic Party, said the committee is running out of time to implement changes before another election.
Britski expressed frustration over the process. The implementation of ARR’s was discussed the last time the Copyright Act was amended in 2012 but was not included, she said. Additionally, NAVA launched a Private Member’s Bill (PMB), but it didn’t pass before the election.
“We’re just waiting for the moment for when this can finally be tabled,” she said. “Ever since [the PMB failed] they’ve been telling us, ‘Wait for the review of the act. Wait till then.’ And now we’re here.”
Masse said more research will need to be done before the committee can determine how to move forward. He said it’s possible the changes could be implemented through a regulatory process, which means the minister could make the change right away.
If legislation is required, it’ll be a much longer process.
“The bottom line for me is, I’m looking for ways the artists can actually get a better return in terms of their participation in the art and culture economy.”
Dan Albas, Conservative MP and vice-chair of the meeting, said he wasn’t sure if ARR’s could be included in the Copyright Act, or if the minister of finance would have to legislate it.
Despite conflicting viewpoints, Albas said he hopes with more analysis they can find solutions to benefit both parties.
“Both stand to gain if that ecosystem is strong and there are more sales,” he said.
Dan Ruimy, Liberal MP and chair of the committee said he thinks the committee will be able to send its recommendations to the government by April 2019.
But Masse said he’d like to see the committee finish its report before the new year.
“The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned, and we saw subsequent issues that are kind of waiting.”