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Supreme Court judge questions need for art trade regulation

Artists may want to think twice before throwing unreserved support behind proposed royalty legislation. At a panel discussion in July at the Artists Space gallery, New York, Barbara Jaffe, a New York State Supreme Court judge, raised the question: “Do [artists] really want their trade regulated? When you have regulation you also have the government coming in and examining you—the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] and all those other wonderful things.” There could be added legal headaches, she warned: “There’s no contract that can’t be gotten around.”

In a later email, Jaffe clarified that she intended her comment to be “neither a statement of fact nor an opinion”. She simply wanted to examine the issues, both positive and negative. “As a member of the judiciary, I take no position on the merits of the proposed legislation,” she said.

Some artists have expressed concerns that the prospect of royalties could adversely affect their work. The painter R.H. Quaytman suggested that money “might come to mind if you think you’re getting a percentage at auction”, even when creating works in the studio. “I do think it would affect me,” she said.