Artist Robert Ballagh has been awarded €5,000 damages by the High Court to compensate him for the loss of royalties over the resale of his paintings as a result of the State's failure to implement an EU directive on the resale rights of artists by January this year.
Mr Ballagh had brought a legal challenge when the State did not bring in a law to deal with the resale rights of artists by the January 1st deadline.
The artist claimed he was incurring financial losses because of the failure of the State to implement an EU directive on the resale rights of artists, known as droit de suite.
The EU directive was implemented this month and the High Court yesterday awarded Mr Ballagh compensatory damages for the loss of royalties he incurred because of the 5½-month delay in bringing in the law.
Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill said the 5½-month delay by the State could not be said to be one of a reprehensible or outrageous nature such as to attract exemplary or aggravated damages. He ruled that only compensatory damages should be awarded in relation to the loss of rights on works of art by Mr Ballagh sold from January 1st, 2006, to June 13th, 2006.
The judge said it would be reasonable to assume there may have been difficulties in tracking down these works and some may have escaped Mr Ballagh's notice.
Mr Ballagh, he added, was an artist of great repute and he awarded him "slightly over" the rights calculation to compensate for further loss in relation to works of art sold in that period and which may not have surfaced yet. The judge also awarded Mr Ballagh the costs of the proceedings.
When the case was called before Mr Justice O'Neill yesterday, Pauline Walley SC for Mr Ballagh said that since the proceedings were last before the courts in her client's bid to legally challenge the State's failure to implement the EU directive, it had to some extent been brought in to law.
That fact dispensed with most of the proceedings but there may be an issue in the future if the statutory instrument failed to operate satisfactorily, Ms Walley said.
What was still before the courts was a claim for damages for breach of the artist's rights as a result of the failure of the State to implement the directive by January 1st, 2006.
The State had introduced a law on June 13th last which gives royalties to visual artists of 4 per cent based on works which sell for more than €3,000. Mr Ballagh was told about the statutory instrument on June 22nd.
Ms Walley stressed that damages were not the primary focus of the proceedings. Mr Ballagh had taken the case not in a personal capacity but on behalf of the artists of Ireland.
It was not just a matter of compensating Mr Ballagh as his actual loss was minute in the scheme of things.
Ms Walley said Mr Ballagh was aware of the sale of €82,700 worth of his works from January of this year including a portrait of JP Donleavy for €40,000 and Girl Looking at a Warhol for €26,000. This would total more than €3,000 in royalties.
There was an art auction this month and Mr Ballagh was unaware the law had been brought into force. The State had agreed to give Mr Ballagh the €3,000 amount plus costs.
Ms Walley said the failure to implement the modest rights had had an impact on artists at ground level who were eking out an existence and who were not household names.