In 2008, I wrote about some authors’ desire to force second-hand bookstores to pay royalties when they resell used books, comparing it to the droit de suite laws in Europe that require royalties be paid on resale of original works of art. Now, Mike Masnick writes on Techdirt about legislation that has just been introduced to bring droit de suite to the United States. The law would only apply to art valued over $10,000.
The problem with this law, Masnick points out, is that it makes ownership of art more expensive—people who would buy it as an investment will have to account for the fact that they’ll be losing a chunk of the resale value if they resell it. And it doesn’t make sense for established artists, because anyone whose old works are selling for that much should be making and selling newer works himself.
Personally, I think the bill’s authors are thinking too small. If people who make art are entitled to perpetual kickbacks on sale, why shouldn’t everybody? They could add books to it like those authors wanted, but why stop there? How about the people who make the furniture you put in your house? Going to resell that Formica table and the La-Z-Boy recliner with just a few holes in it at a garage sale? Get your checkbook out. And paying Detroit a royalty on every used car would certainly help prop up our flagging auto industry. And why shouldn’t McDonald’s have to pay dairy and beef farmers a little extra cut from each one of those billions of cheeseburgers it sells? We could create all sorts of new revenue streams for the people who make the stuff we use every day!
Or, no, wait, we couldn’t. All it would mean is that we’d just end up paying more for everything. Hopefully this dumb legislation dies the death it deserves…but I don’t think we can count on that happening.