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The article in this weeks Antique Trade Gazette is truly shocking. It seems that The Design and Copyright Society (DACS) have announced that they will hand back undistributed Resale Right Royalties after 6 years. They say they will charge a 15% commission for doing this. They go on to say that they will keep any interest earned on the money while it has been in their possession. In my view the Government should intervene to stop such profiteering at the expense of the beleaguered Art Industry. Disgraceful ! This is simply appalling. Are they not aware that the current economic downturn has had a dramatic and hugely negative effect on many in the British Art Industry which does need every penny it can get in it’s reduced cash-flow to withstand these hostile recessionary times. This is an industry which has many small family businesses which will suffer hugely and cannot afford to be treated in such a way. How can an organisation such as DACS simply announce that they are taking actions which are so detrimental to our industry and remain unchallenged ? They seem to have succeeded in enforcing an interest free loan on a group of people already impoverished by their privations - and to charge them for the privilage.


Many artists do not give a mandate to DACS simply because they disagree strongly with the whole concept of Artists Resale Right. Reading a recent letter to the Antiques Trade Gazette we saw a reasoned response to this effect from Nicholas Skeaping the son of the illustrious John Skeaping R.A. Nicholaus stated that neither he nor his father had time or sympathy with the ARR and would not accept Royalty payments because of this. Quite a few paintings by John Skeaping have sold at auction over the years. Sales of his works from the 1st January 2012, no doubt, will augment the large interest free loans already held by DACS. An auction buyer has no choice but to pay Artists Resale Right - even if the artist or his heirs refuse to accept it. Many artists who have died in the last 70 years have given no mandate to DACS to collect Royalties and their relatives cannot be found. DACS, however, will collect these moneys as we have seen and keep them for 6 years on an interest free basis. Frankly an Art Dealer or Gallery who pays money to DACS for works by a party for whom they do not have a mandate is rather ill-advised. I for one would not want to do so. Why would I want to give an interest free loan to a rich society which is now earning 15% of many millions of pounds paid to the Estates of artists like Picasso and Matisse? No - not me. I spoke recently to an associate who works for an auction house. That business seems to be collecting large sums from unknown artists who may or may not have died more than 70 years ago in respect of ARR. Because they are not sure they collect the money in case they are challenged. Maybe they will keep it 6 years later when nothing has happened? Maybe, in 6 years time, many auction houses will start to register rather nice balance sheet adjustments upwards.


More serious , however, is the other situation my auctioneer friend told me of. Say a buyer paid ARR to the auction house and his money was on hold for 6 years due to lack of mandate. Do we honestly believe that unfortunate buyer will be repaid 6 years later if no mandate was ever found? Of course it will not happen and there will be profiteering as a result of this by both DACS who pocket the 15% and the interest and the auction house who do not process a refund. Even if the auction house wanted to be honest how could he devote time and trouble to seeking out a buyer who made a purchase 6 years before? Will new businesses spring up searching for buyers of un-mandated artists 6 years later who can claim from auction houses? It is an interesting idea!


As can be clearly seen the situation is not a happy one for those who buy obscure artists works. For DACS, however, doubtless the whole process will generate further vast profits. We must ask ourselves what will happen to those profits because DACS is, I believe, a “Not for profit” organisation. Surely the simple answer could be that those who run it will continue to make no profits but instead adjust their salaries accordingly. How happy to be in a situation when most of the world live in an era of austerity but those ruling Collecting Agencies can perhaps look forward to seeing a great increase in their wealth? It might be interesting to know, in years to come, the remuneration figures for certain senior figures.