Art collector Dean Valentine settled a lawsuit with artist Mark Grotjahn, who filed suit against the collector when Valentine failed to pay the five percent royalties owed to the living artist under the California Resale Royalty Act (also known as “droit de suite”). Valentine has agreed to pay Grotjahn the five percent he owed on the three works he resold, as well as some of the artist’s legal fees, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Grotjahn’s lawsuit was first filed in state court, then sent to federal court, where the judge rejected Valentine’s argument that the law was a constitutional violation. According to the judge, the law “does not infringe on the exclusive rights delineated in the Copyright Act.” The suit got sent back to the state court, and Valentine settled rather than continue to fight an uphill battle. “My client just decided to settle after doing the math and deciding it was simpler to pay,” Valentine’s attorney told the Hollywood Reporter.
While it’s not a done deal, the outcome of the case could affect the current class-action lawsuit that artists have filed against major auction houses Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and even Ebay in the fight to get the California royalties they claim are due to them. Similar to Valentine, the auction houses have also claimed that the law is “unconstitutional, and therefore unenforceable.”
— Shane Ferro