Did You Know?

A short history of CARFAC’s National Campaigns

“People think artists’ fees just happened but, no, in fact CARFAC fought for them.” – artist Karl Beveridge

CARFAC has been issuing an exhibition fee schedule since 1968. 

In 1968, artists and founding CARFAC members Jack Chambers and Tony Urquhart began to develop a fee schedule that suggested how much artists should be paid when their art was exhibited or reproduced.  Since then, the fee schedule has been updated annually through negotiation and usage to reflect increases in the cost of living. All fees are considered minimum payments for the use of the copyrights and/or professional services of visual and media artists.

If you have ever been paid an artist’s fee for exhibiting your work, you have already benefited from CARFAC.

In 1975, after successful lobbying by CARFAC, the Canada Council made the payment of fees to living Canadian artists a requirement for eligibility for Program Assistance Grants to Public Art Galleries, making Canada the first country to pay exhibition fees to artists.  CARFAC has also been influential in the introduction of professional artist fees internationally. For example, in 1979 – as a direct result of CARFAC’s influence – artists began receiving fees in Britain when showing work in exhibitions organized by the Arts Council or by Regional Arts associations.

CARFAC’s lobbying resulted in the earliest modernization of the Canadian Copyright Act.

In 1988, after years of lobbying by CARFAC, the Canadian Copyright Act was amended, thereby recognizing artists as primary producers of culture and giving them legal entitlement to exhibition and other fees. According to this Act, when works of art created after June 7, 1988 are exhibited in public spaces where the gallery receives public funds, an exhibition fee must be paid.  This fee only applies when the artwork shown is not being actively presented for sale or hire.

CARFAC is recognized as the collective bargaining representative for media and visual artists in Canada.

In 1999, the Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal certified CARFAC as the collective bargaining representative for media and visual artists in Canada, as recognized by the Status of the Artist Act (1992).  This title gives CARFAC and its partner, RAAV, the right to negotiate collective agreements with all federal institutions on behalf of artists in Quebec and the rest of Canada.  Once a signed federal agreement is reached with an institution and is ratified by the membership of the certified organization, it is legally biding and will set a major precedent for other federal and even provincial institutions.

CARFAC continues to negotiate for the payment of minimum artist fees in museums and galleries across Canada.

Although the Canada Council has required recipients of their Program Assistance Grants to Public Art Galleries to adhere to CARFAC’s fee schedule since 1975 and CARFAC has been recommending minimum fees for the use of artists’ work since 1968, these fees are considered voluntary; many galleries pay them, but some still pressure artists to waive their rights.  

In 2007, CARFAC, along with le Regroupement des artistes en arts visuels du Quebec (RAAV), signed an unprecedented Memorandum of Understanding with The Canadian Art Museums Directors’ Organization (CAMDO) and the Canadian Museums Association (CMA), an agreement which established a relationship between the parties and acknowledges their mutual interest in advancing the economic status of visual artists, museums and galleries, and the visual arts sector as a whole. Together, they negotiated a suggested minimum fee schedule for temporary exhibitions with a duration of 5 years and a 3% yearly increase.

Since 2003, CARFAC has been trying to negotiate the establishment of a fee schedule with the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), as provided for in the federal Status of the Artist Act.  This fee schedule would be binding—the equivalent of a minimum wage that artists would still be free to negotiate for higher rates—and it would set a precedent for other galleries across Canada.  In 2007, the NGC stopped these negotiations and argued that artists have the right to be paid less if they so choose.  CARFAC took the NGC to court, alleging the institution had bargained in bad faith, and, following years of court battles, in 2014, CARFAC and RAAV finally won their case at the Supreme Court after an unusually fast ruling.  This historic win for artists obliges the NGC to negotiate minimum copyright fees relating to the exhibition and reproduction right of the artists whose work it exhibits.

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