Just three months after the Supreme Court denied certiorari review of last year’s Ninth Circuit decision finding California’s Resale Royalty Act unconstitutional under the Dormant Commerce Clause in part—but also valid in part—the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles has ruled the entire law invalid as preempted by copyright law. Critically, the opinion relies on last year’s Ninth Circuit ruling on the Commerce Clause issue to overrule a 1980 Ninth Circuit case that expressly rejected the idea that the law was preempted. This core holding of yesterday’s opinion is hard to square with Ninth Circuit precedent, but that will be tested on appeal, for sure. As before, expect proponents of Congressional efforts to enact national legislation to use this decision as support for the idea that a federal solution is necessary, but those efforts have born little fruit to date.
In a decision long awaited by artists and auction houses in particular, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the California Resale Royalty Act of 1976 (CRA)—America’s only droit de suite—is unconstitutional top regulate any sales of art outside of California. The court concluded, however, that that portion of the law is severable from the rest, and let the regulation of in-California sales stand for further interpretation by a subsidiary panel of the appeals court. There are two likely aftereffects of this decision. Galleries and auction houses can put any concerns to rest about sales in New York in particular, but one has to wonder about the effect it will have on putting items for sale in California, which will effectively have a premium not present in other states. It also raises the possibility that the resulting piecemeal framework will motivate movement on the pending federal bill (the American Royalties Too (ART) Act of 2015) concerning resale royalties. Could this be the development that prompts movement in Congress?
Topics: Legislation, Resale Royalties, Chuck Close, Supreme Court, Christie's, Cal. Civ. Code § 986(a), Dormant Commerce Clause, droit de suite, sales tax, Cal. Redev. Ass’n v. Matosantos, use tax, American Royalties Too (ART) Act of 2015, California Resale Royalty Act, Copyright, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotheby's, eBay
The Art Law Report’s very first post was on the revival of efforts to pass federal legislation on resale royalties, yet there was little movement after that. Earlier this year, the California Resale Royalty Act was struck down on constitutional grounds, a case now on appeal.
Consistent with expectations after reports from the court hearing in March, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles dismissed the case brought by artist Chuck Close and others that alleged violations of the California Resale Royalty Act (the “CRRA”) by Sotheby’s, Christie’s and eBay, and ruled that the CRRA is unconstitutional in its entirety. Similar claims against eBay were also dismissed in a shorter opinion referencing the Sotheby’s and Christie’s decision.
Topics: Legislation, Resale Royalties, Chuck Close, Commerce Clause, Christie's, California Legislative Council, Dormant Commerce Clause, Collections, California Resale Royalty Act, Copyright, Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Sotheby's, intellectual property, eBay
In place of rumored legislative efforts last summer, legislation has been formally introduced to codify under U.S. federal law droite de suite rights of resale for artists, under certain circumstances.
Christie’s and Sotheby’s were sued this week by several artists (including Chuck Close) as class action plaintiffs, alleging violations of California’s Resale Royalty Act. The Resale Royalty Act is one of the few statutes in the United States recognizing artists’ rights to some of the proceeds of the sale of their works, even after the initial sale, a concept known as droite de suite. As noted by the Art Law Report last month, there have been noises at the federal level about reviving droite de suite as it is used in Europe, but to date little concrete change has materialized. A useful definition of the idea can be found, with some irony, at the Christie’s website.