Document Type



Legislation creating or reinforcing resale royalties for visual artists retains substantial political popularity, particularly in the European Union -- despite the often skeptical attitude toward those rights in the economics literature. In this essay, we probe more deeply the affirmative arguments that can be made for a resale royalty right, in either a mandatory or a discretionary form. We also compare the rationale for visual artists’ resale royalties with the potential rationales for the now-well-established systems of royalty rights for authors and composers. This comparison has particular interest both because some of the principal arguments made against visual artists’ resale royalties also apply to authors’ royalties, and because the economic rationale for compensating authors with royalties has itself not been well explored. We also discuss briefly the related subject of display rights for visual artists. We conclude with some general implications for policy.

Date of Authorship for this Version

April 2001