Resale right in Germany

In Germany, the resale right is covered by Art. 26 of the German Copyright Act.

It takes effect when a work of visual art or photographic work is resold with the involvement of an art dealer or auctioneer within a period of up to 70 years after the death of the artist. Works of architecture and applied art are not covered, nor are transactions among private individuals.

Other preconditions: Minimum sales proceeds of Euro 400, the transaction takes place in Germany and the artist is German or a citizen of a country that also recognizes a resale right (If a work of a US American is sold in Germany, no royalties for the resale right are payable because the USA has not yet introduced a resale right in its legislation).

The amount of royalty due depends on the net sales proceeds, i.e. the selling price excluding value-added tax. The artist’s share starts at four per cent, gradually decreasing once sales proceeds have reached more than Euro 50,000. The royalty is capped at Euro 12,500, i.e. a single sale cannot generate a higher share for the artist, even if the work is sold for several million Euros.

Only a collecting society is entitled to request information from the art trade. In Germany, it is VG Bild-Kunst that administers the resale right.

Since 2007, royalty income has totalled been between four and five million Euros, of which about one million Euros is paid to VG Bild-Kunst from abroad for sales of its members’ works that are subject to resale royalties in the country in question .

If a resale is subject to royalties, it only makes up a small portion of the sales proceeds. Nevertheless it is a major source of revenue for artists, whose income is often below average.

After the death of the artist, the resale right assumes even greater importance for the heirs. Because on the one hand the artist cannot create any new works of art, while on the other the heirs frequently bear the burden of management of the artist’s legacy (storage, restoration, cataloguing, research).

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