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The debate arose after the Fine Art Trade Guild noted that limited edition prints were not clearly defined in the Droit de Suite legislation that came into force on January 1 this year.

They campaigned strongly for the exclusion of mass-produced reproductions – many of which would be too low value to attract the levy anyway – and now the agency who collect the levy on behalf of the artists, the Design and Copyright Society (DACS), have decided to back them. This now means that, under the British Standards classification of prints, only categories A to C, encompassing ‘artists’ prints’, will come under the scope of the levy.

Managing director of the Fine Art Trade Guild Christrose Sumner told ATG: “The resale right is supposed to apply only to original art. We are delighted that DACS has now reconsidered its interpretation to effectively eliminate most reproductions.”

The problem arose because the government’s regulations merely stated that any art work qualified for the resale right “which is one of a limited number made by the artist or under his/her authority”. It did not specify an upper limit on the number of items in the edition.

Joanna Cave, chief executive of DACS, said: “By consulting the Guild, in addition to taking legal advice and studying how the issue is treated in other countries, our goal was to reach an outcome that made sense for art market professionals, balanced with the rights of artists. I think we have successfully achieved this.”

But in an area where the original involvement of an artist can be sometimes difficult to determine, Christrose Sumner said she urged artists who are making their own matrix to say so on their authenticity certificate. She said that often with prints, particularly digital prints, it is assumed the artist didn’t make the matrix.

The definitions are defined in more detail in the British Standards Classification of Prints (ref: BS7876) which can be purchased from www.bsi-global.com

By Alex Capon