Despite a grim current landscape of government cuts to arts funding, UK artists do have some reason to celebrate: the Artist's Resale Rights (ARR) regulations (derived from EU law and introduced in the UK in 2006) have escaped tabling in The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – meaning the ARR regulations are not destined for the bonfire of EU law scheduled for the end of 2023.
In light of the EU provenance of the ARR regulations, the Government's decision to exclude the regulations from the revocation pile is an active acknowledgement of the importance and value of the regulations in supporting the UK's artistic community.
The basic premise of the ARR regulations is akin to royalties in the music world – i.e. when an artist's work is resold for more than €1,000 (and provided an art market professional was involved in the sale), a small cut is owed to the artist or their heirs. The aim is to enable artists to benefit from the increasing value of their works as their secondary market develops, with works sometimes selling for hundreds of times the price at which they were first purchased from the artist, especially if the artist was in the early stages of their career at the point of the initial sale.
ARR monies predominantly benefit artists with work selling at lower prices, with over 50% of eligible sales falling under £5,000. More than 80 countries have enshrined in national laws a right for artists to earn a royalty from their works – besides the whole of the EU, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Iceland, India, Norway, Russia, Venezuela, the Philippines, Algeria, and several other African countries have equivalent laws. Mexico is the latest adopter of ARR rights, as of March 2023.
Due to the reciprocal framework of the right (artists who are nationals of the EEA (European Economic Area) qualify for royalties under the UK's ARR regulations, as do UK artists under the equivalent regulations of EEA countries), the retention of the ARR regulations will benefit both UK artists whose works are sold within the EEA, and EEA artists whose works are sold in the UK. It remains to be seen whether a more global framework for reciprocity beyond the EEA is established, but the continuing existence of ARR in the UK makes this a more likely eventuality.