- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Boston Globe, Nov. 21, 2014

Two iconic ‘60s works by pop art master Andy Warhol - silkscreen portraits of Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando - sold last week at Christie’s auction house in New York for a combined $151.6 million. That’s pretty much business as usual for blue chip Pop art and other works of that era - the sale, which also included works by Cy Twombly, Francis Bacon, Ed Ruscha, and Cindy Sherman, brought in a total of $852.9 million, “our highest total ever,” according to Christie’s chairman of postwar and contemporary art.

So, famous art sells for millions, what else is news? Well, maybe the fact that the last time the two Warhol canvases sold, in the late ‘70s, it was for $185,000. And that the Andy Warhol Foundation’s profit from last week’s sale is exactly zero.

The Christie’s auction again brought attention to the fact that - unlike novelists, filmmakers, and composers - artists do not profit from the resale of their work. A bill before Congress could change all that. The American Royalties Too Act, sponsored by Democratic New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, proposes a percentage of 5 percent of auction sales of art, including sculpture and photography, go to the artist, with a cap of $35,000. (In the Senate, the bill is being sponsored by Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, and Edward Markey of Massachusetts.) The bill is limited to auctions because they are public, while gallery and individual sales are confidential, making it difficult to track the necessary information.

The issue is one that artists, dealers, collectors, and auction houses have argued for years. In one famous incident recounted by NPR, the artist Robert Rauschenberg confronted the collector Robert Scull, who had just sold for $85,000 a work that the artist had sold to him for $900. “I’m working … for you to make that profit?” Rauschenberg demanded. Scull answered that the price would raise the market value for all Rauschenberg’s work.

That much is true. And some artists themselves are ambivalent about the legislation, which they say helps only veteran artists (or their estates) whose market value is already strong enough to bring them to auction, while inhibiting sales of new work to collectors who are hesitant to take a risk on younger artists. The auction houses, meanwhile, have brought in lobbyists to block passage of the bill, which they see as an additional cost that could dampen prices and encourage sellers to avoid auction houses in favor of private deals.

But the fact is that resale royalties, called droit de suite, are now standard in much of the world, causing the U.S. Copyright Office to drop its previous opposition to such legislation. The new law would enable American artists to benefit from those overseas sales. Multimillion dollar art prices can feel inflated to the layperson. But the art market is notoriously fickle; artists should be allowed to take advantage of that light for the moments it shines on them, at whatever stage of their careers. As Congressman Nadler said, “This is not an anti-poverty bill. It’s a fairness and equity bill.”

The Portland (Maine) Press Herald, Nov. 18, 2014

Americans treasure free speech and the ability to share their opinions, but we understand that our vote is private. When we step up to fill in our ballot, sometimes behind a red, white and blue curtain, we do so knowing that our choice is ours alone, and who we voted for is nobody’s business unless we want to tell them.

That may be why so many Mainers felt violated this election season by a mailing from a mysterious group that purported to show their voting “report card” and conveying the veiled message that if they didn’t vote this election, their friends and neighbors could find out about it.

The tactic is called “social pressuring,” and it comes from a published Yale University political science study that suggested this strategy could be used to boost turnout. But at least in Maine, it set off alarms about invasion of privacy and violation of the sanctity of the voting booth.

What these outraged voters may not have known is that lots of people know who votes. Anyone can go to a town hall and look at the voter list to see who shows up on Election Day, and any campaign can buy the state’s voter database and have a record of every voter in the state. It was probably one of those groups that gave the social pressure group its information. We can’t know for sure because the authors of the mailing have obscured their identities with shell organizations and political action committees.

These mailers are a wake-up call for anyone who was offended by what feels like a violation of their privacy: Everyone ought to know by now that there is a tremendous amount of information about us that is compiled by others and used for purposes completely separate from the one intended when it was collected. There are records of what we do, what we buy, where we go and who we talk to. There are databases that penetrate much more deeply into our private lives than just the voter list.

The other thing we can learn from this episode is how inaccurate much of that information may be. Many of the people who received the mailing were just as upset about errors in the data as they were about the fact that the data exists at all.

In this age of information, privacy is being redefined. It is important that we all demand to know who is collecting information about us and how they plan to use it if we want to have any expectation of privacy at all.

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