Sotheby’s v Viscopy Update

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Further to our post on the 28 July regarding the dispute between Sotheby’s and Viscopy, Sotheby’s  have now countersued Viscopy, accusing them of breaching the country’s Competition and Consumer Act by refusing permission to publish images of paintings by the artist John Olsen in their auction catalogues.

In a claim filed in the NSW Federal Court in Sydney, Sotheby’s alleges Viscopy defaulted on an arrangement in place since 1983 in which the auction house was free to use images of Australian artists’ works to facilitate their sale on the secondary market.

The Olsen family, upset a key painting in the artist’s oeuvre was coming to market, had earlier told Viscopy to withdraw permission to reproduce images of any works. Sotheby’s, who had sold Olsen works without restraint for many years, chose to ignore the instruction.

Viscopy License

Since its inception in 1995 the agency, which represents 43% of Australian and New Zealand artists, has been licensed to collect and distribute copyright payments whenever an artist’s work features in print or film. Controversially this includes images photographed for auction and gallery catalogues.

The case is being closely watched by all Australian auctioneers and secondary market art dealers as a test of Viscopy’s efficacy.

The hearing is set for October 27.

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