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Inuit artists missing out on resale revenue
Canadian organization keeps pushing government for copyright reform

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Monday, November 25, 2013

Eighteen Inuit artists who saw their pieces sold during a recent Waddington's auction in Toronto won't get a single cent from the sales, which totaled $84,700.

NNSL photo/graphic

Iqaluit-based jewelry maker Dan Wade is an advocate for the establishment of an artist resale rights law. - NNSL file photo

That's because Canada has not legislated the right for artists to receive a percentage of resale profits, also known as the Artist Resale Right, which has been implemented in at least 69 other countries.

The Canadian Associations of Visual Artists (CARFAC) has used the auction as a way to relaunch the message that the federal government should add the legislation to the Canadian Copyright Act.

In fact, had the law been in place before the Nov. 18 auction, those artists would have shared royalties of $4,235.

Factoring in estates, the sales total of $368,870 would have paid families of those artists $18,448 in royalties.

For example, six pieces created by Inuit artist Henry Evaluardjuk, who passed away in 2007, sold for a combined total of $36,840.

"We've been talking about this issue with the government for the past four years," said CARFAC's national executive director April Britski.

"Many countries that have implemented the right have done it in the past 10 years. There's been a bigger international push more recently."

Britski said the organization has been looking closely at Australia's situation, where more than 60 per cent of artists who receive resale rights are indigenous.

Their resale royalty scheme, implemented in 2010, has increased protection to indigenous artists, but is currently under review because there are fears it only benefits the most successful artists and their estates.

The artists are only entitled to the five per cent royalty if the art has been sold commercially for more than $1,000.

CARFAC has recommended the same compensation scheme for Canadian artists.

Pierre Nantel, the federal NDP's critic for heritage, has championed the cause and introduced motion M-445 into the Canadian Parliament on May 30.

"A resale right would allow artists to earn a living from their works and benefit from the increased value of their work over time," Nantel said at the time.

"It's a common-sense solution that must be studied with all culture stakeholders involved, and put in place as soon as possible."

Iqaluit resident Dan Wade has been making jewelry since 2005, when he enrolled in the jewelry and

metalworking program at Nunavut Arctic College.

He said the Artist Resale Right is very important for artists across the country, but especially for Nunavummiut, where the sector has created more than 1,000 full-time jobs, according to the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Economic Impact Study in 2010.

"I'm optimistic about it and there is progress being made," Wade said.

"Artists don't make a lot of money. With housing shortages and poverty, this is definitely needed by all artists."

Progress on motion M-445 has been slow since May, though, according to CARFAC's advocacy and communications director Melissa Gruber.

"The best thing about it is that it puts Nantel on record supporting artists' rights," she said.

"As far as we know, there is no spot for it to be debated. We've met with Pierre since then, and he has a lot of energy and ideas on how to promote resale rights in Canada."

The organization is also working on trying to get a meeting with Canadian Heritage and Official Languages Minister Sherry Glover.

"She's got a long list of people to speak with, but we're on there," Gruber said.

The Nunavut government officially endorsed an artist resale right law in March 2012.

- with files from

Danielle Sachs

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