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President Sarkozy has written to European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso calling for the ARR to be limited to living artists indefinitely across the EU. The UK are campaigning for the extension of the ARR to heirs to be put off from 2010 to 2012.

The French President’s approach represents a sea change in his country’s policy, which now goes even further than campaigners in the UK had dared hope for in attempting to put off the extension of the right, which they believe will damage the domestic art market.

M. Sarkozy is unhappy that France should be subject to the ARR – particularly without enjoying the derogation that the UK has won – when other major art markets around the world, such as the US and Switzerland, have no plans to introduce it.

The EU directive that imposed the ARR on the UK and France stipulated that the object was to persuade the rest of the world to adopt the policy, but so far non-EU countries who have considered the scheme have rejected it.

President Sarkozy’s personal intervention comes just as the UK government concluded their consultation on whether to pursue the derogation to 2012 or end it in 2010.

An ATG-sponsored study published earlier this year supports calls for the former, a position backed by the government-commissioned report by the Intellectual Property Office and spearheaded by the British Art Market Federation (BAMF).

Leading the call for the 2010 cut-off date are the Design and Artists’ Copyright Society (DACS), who are the main agency for collecting royalties due to artists under the directive.

The main points in BAMF’s submission to the government, arguing for 2012, are:

• The extension of droit de suite to the work of deceased artists would quadruple the number of sales that would become liable to the levy.
• This would substantially increase the risk that the UK’s competitive position in the global art market would be eroded by markets outside the EU where Droit de Suite does not apply.
• The derogation was inserted into the directive in recognition that it would limit the impact of Droit de Suite on the art market while allowing living artists to benefit.
• The derogation was intended to provide time for the European Commission to reach an international agreement, designed to create a level playing field between competing global market centres. So far this international agreement has not been forthcoming.
• There is no sign that harmonisation has resulted in a redistribution of the internal EU art market. Although the UK appears to have maintained its position since 2006, France, Germany and Italy have seen a decline in their share of the global contemporary art market.
• The European Commission is committed to carrying out an assessment of the directive and its effect both on the internal EU art market and on external competition. An extension of the derogation allows additional time for a thorough assessment to be made. It also allows longer to resolve the practical difficulties that have been encountered so far.

By Ivan Macquisten