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Dealers and auctioneers face a much heavier liability if a recommendation by parliament’s Culture Select Committee to dramatically lower the threshold at which the levy applies is acted on.

What is just as worrying is that the committee appear to have based this recommendation on statistics which do not form part of the report they are attributed to.

Now trade bodies are to meet to discuss how to counteract what they view as serious potential damage to the British art market and dealers and auctioneers are being urged to have their say in the Patent Office consultation on the matter. The deadline is May 16.

(See the contact details at the end of this report.)

As we have reported before, Droit de Suite, which will come in next January 1 as part of a European Union directive, aims to help struggling artists by awarding them a royalty on every public resale of their works. The measure is part of a bid to harmonise trade across the EU but has proved controversial because it does not apply in the United States – the world’s biggest art market – and Switzerland.

Studies have shown that Europe, and in particular the UK, risk losing significant trade to the US as a result.

The Culture Committee have recommended that the levy should apply on all sales from €1000, not the €3000 previously agreed. They were persuaded, at least in part, to recommend this new threshold by the Design and Copyright Society, who expect to win the monopoly to collect the levy on behalf of artists. DACS told the committee that lowering the threshold to €1000 would increase the number of artists benefiting by 92 per cent, a statistic they said came from the official Government-commissioned study into the potential impact of Droit de Suite on the UK market. But when ATG inspected the study, put together by Gerard Leeuwenburgh, we could find no evidence to support this.

It is also not clear whether any member of the Culture Committee, who accepted DACS’ figure and based their recommendation on it, had actually seen the Leeuwenburgh study.

Worse still, the committee recommend that the levy rate at €1000 (£600) should be raised from four to five per cent of the sale price.

Simple mathematics show that at this level the cost of collecting and administering the levy are almost twice what the artist would actually receive.

The Government has actually campaigned in the EU to have the threshold raised from €3000 to €10,000 because of the potential damage to UK trade interests. Whether they will now reverse that opinion and take up the committee’s recommendation remains to be seen.

• Consultation contact details: Ceri Witchard, Intellectual Property & Innovation Directorate, Room 3B38, The Patent Office, Concept

House, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8QQ

E-mail: droitdesuite@patent.gov.uk
Tel: 01633 813709 Fax: 01633 814922