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Under the terms of the European Union Directive, the British government has the power to raise the threshold at which it applies from €1000 to €3000, which would make a huge difference to smaller art dealerships who do not have the resources to administer the Resale Right as it stands.

ATG, among other campaigners, is calling for just such a measure to be taken.

The Netherlands and Austria set their thresholds at €3000, in accordance with the Directive, and even the minister who eventually gold-plated the terms of the Directive by lowering the threshold to €1000 had earlier said that it would be wrong to do so.

"The administrative costs become an absurdly high proportion of the actual payments which will go to artists," he told the Culture Committee in March 2005.

And he was right.

It costs around £25, currently €27.5, per transaction for dealers and auction houses to administer the Resale Right. This is out of all proportion to the benefit at the lower end. For a €1000 sale, for instance, the Resale Right would be €40, 15 per cent of which goes to the collecting society, leaving the artist with €34. Effectively, this means it costs the trade professional €27.5 to administer a payment of €34 to an artist.

If the threshold stays at €1000 after January 1, it will affect around four times as many sales as it does now. If, however, the government raised the threshold to €3000, it would instantly make a substantial difference to the industry, and follow the Directive's aim more closely to harmonise markets across the EU.

By Ivan Macquisten


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