Britain agrees to give artists share of sale proceeds

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The Independent Online

The Government agreed last night to a deal that will give artists a share of the proceeds from reselling their masterpieces - but not for 15 years.

The Government agreed last night to a deal that will give artists a share of the proceeds from reselling their masterpieces - but not for 15 years.

Britain has been holding out for months against royalties on works of art, with ministers warning that the extra charge could seriously damage the nation's £2.2bn-a-year art market.

But after winning more concessions to restrict the impact of the new levy, and postponing its application until 2015, the UK put its name to a deal that the European Commission says is too little and too late to give creative artists the financial recognition they deserve.

But Helen Liddell, Britain's minister for European competitiveness, hailed the deal as "an acceptable balance between the competitivity of the arts trade, the rights of artists and the need to strengthen the single market".

The compromise reached by European Union ambassadors in Brussels ends three years of wrangling over whether to pay royalties, how much to pay, and to whom.

In the long term the deal ensures that authors of works of art will receive a royalty of up to 4 per cent every time their original paintings, sculptures, or other artistic treasures are sold on by agents or at auction in Britain or anywhere in Europe. The move follows EU Commission insistence that artists should retain a stake in the rising value of their works, as pop stars do.

But while the Commission wanted the new Directive on Artists' Resale Rights to apply immediately, Britain pushed to delay the start and convinced the others that royalties will only be paid on works worth between £2,400 and £7,500.

The payments will go to living authors of art works and to his or her heirs for 70 years after the author's death. But while most member states will be given five years to apply the new law, once it is approved by the European Parliament, Britain will not have to introduce it for a further ten years.

However, a government official said that the rule would be applied to living artists only before then - with little financial impact on the British art market, because of the restricted value of works to which the royalties apply.

Most EU member states already guarantee royalties on art works. Only Britain, Ireland, Austria and Holland do not.

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