Australian visual artists to receive international resale royalties 

A photo of gold strands, emphasising the potential money artists can earn.
Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash

In great news this month, Australian visual artists will now receive resale royalties from the resale of their eligible artworks in 17 countries in addition to Australia. From 31 March 2024, visual artists from those 17 countries will also be able to receive royalties on commercial resales of their artworks in Australia.

What is the resale royalty right?

Resale royalty rights mean that artists receive a royalty payment where their artwork is commercially resold.

Before the resale royalty rights scheme was introduced in Australia in June of 2010, visual artists here would not receive anything from later resales of the art. For example, an artist may have sold an artwork initially for $500. Later, their artwork may have been commercially resold for a far greater amount, for example, $5,000 or $10,000, netting the seller a significant profit. Until the resale royalty rights scheme, the artist did not benefit directly from the increased value of their work.

The resale royalty rights scheme in Australia has meant that Australian visual artists benefit from commercial resales of their work of $1,000 or more at the rate of 5% of the sale price.

Which sales does the resale royalty currently apply to?

The resale royalty is currently payable:

  • for original works of visual art (including, for example, sculptures, paintings, drawings, tapestries, weavings, fine art jewellery, prints, carvings, collages, and installations). 
  • on commercial resales of the artwork where the sale price is over $1,000.
    • A “resale” means that the sale is not the first sale of the artwork – it must be the second or later sale of the artwork.
    • A “commercial” sale means that the sale involves a transfer of ownership and an art market professional (such as an auctioneer, gallery, museum or art dealer).

Resale royalties are administrated by Copyright Agency and artists must be registered to receive any entitlements. Beyond this, sellers or agents are obliged to report all commercial resales of or exceeding $1,000 irrespective of whether a royalty is payable.

Who can receive a resale royalty?

The resale royalty is paid to the visual artist. If the artist has passed away, the resale royalty is paid to the artist’s beneficiaries.

The artist or their beneficiary must satisfy the “residency test”. This currently means that the artist or beneficiary is either:

  • An Australian citizen or permanent resident.
  • A national or citizen of a country which is listed in the regulations as having a reciprocal arrangement with Australia. This means that the other country also has a resale royalty right and will recognise Australia’s resale royalty rights.

What countries does the resale royalty right apply to?

The Australian Government’s new list of 17 countries with which we now have reciprocal arrangements: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.  

Now, artists from those 17 countries may claim resale royalties on sales of their artwork in Australia. Australian artists are also able to claim resale royalties on resales of their artwork in those 17 countries.

The detail of when an Australian artist can claim that resale royalty for foreign sales, and the royalty value, will be determined under the laws of that foreign country rather than Australian law. The Government has said that it expects this list to be expanded in the future.

What will be the impact for Australian visual artists?

Since its beginnings on 9 June 2010 until 31 December last year, the resale royalty rights scheme in Australia has resulted in royalties of over $14 million benefiting over 2,700 visual artists. Over 65% of recipients of resale royalties are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artists, according to Copyright Agency.

Arts Law hopes to see the amount distributed to artists continue to increase with this new development.

Where can I find out more?

If you would like to find out more, here are some resources that may help:

  • The Government’s media release about the resale royalty scheme is here.
  • Arts Law’s information sheet on the Resale Royalty scheme (which does not yet include these new updates) is here.
  • Copyright Agency’s website on the resale royalty rights scheme is here.

If you are a visual artist and have a question about the resale royalty scheme or payments and would like legal advice, you can submit your query to Arts Law here.