Artists don’t sell rights to their works in perpetuity, Rodney Ryder tells Kishore Singh.
Rodney Ryder is a partner with Kochhar & Co, a legal consultant who specialises in intellectual property and technology related cases, both of which reveal several grey areas in India. Ryder spoke to us about legal aspects concerning art that will hopefully break fresh ground given the environment of secrecy that surrounds sales and, particularly re-sales, in the art market.
Can an artist ever hope to earn royalty on his sold works?
Section 53A of the Copyright Act talks about works within the copyright period (which is the artist’s life plus 60 years) ensuring a percentage to be paid to the painter so long as the price of the work exceeds Rs 10,000. Though the right exists, there has been no case to date.
What percentage are we talking about?
The law says it is up to 10 per cent, and in case of dispute the Copyright Board will decide on the figure.
Why haven’t artists demanded their re-sale right?
I read somewhere once that when Europe passed the re-sale law, Tyeb Mehta wished that we had the right of re-sale in India, but of course we do! No case has ever come up citing it because artists clearly don’t know about it. Of course, it’s controversial even in Europe, as it will be in India should cases start to come up because the whole field is new.
How does an artist monitor re-sales?
It’s difficult, naturally. In UK, a collecting agency takes on the task, checking sales, re-sales, auction sales and so on. An interesting thing is that while the copyright applies in Europe, and in parts in India, it doesn’t apply in the United States, which could become a haven for the re-sale of art.
What are some of the more ambivalent aspects of the copyright law?
With reference to art, there is the question of moral right. Not only does the painter create a work, for instance, the work creates the painter. Then, while you may not copy a work, you can parody it.
The French have a civilised way of doing things so, for instance, in the right to publish, whatever a critic says about an artist or his work, the painter has the right to answer the critic. But moral rights in India are iron-clad. Then, of course, we have so many more areas of ambiguity where we need to resolve copyright matters — in the case of fakes, for instance, or antiquities…