Inuk artist Marc Tungilik spent almost every day hacking away at soapstone and the bones of the animals he hunted, reincarnating arctic life with his carvings of musk ox, owls, bears and the people who reside in what’s now known as Nunavut.
He sold his wares for as little as one dollar to afford the gas that kept his seven children warm, his daughter recalls. More than three decades after the carver’s death, many of his works now fetch thousands of dollars on the auction block, but Theresie Tungilik said she hasn’t seen a dime.
That’s because Canada doesn’t entitle visual artists and their estates to a share of the profits when their works are resold, but advocates like Tungilik are hoping that will change as Ottawa conducts a mandatory review of the Copyright Act, set to wrap up in early 2019.
“I really feel like this is the missing link. If the artist resale rights became law in Canada, it would be a full circle,” said Tungilik, an adviser to the Nunavut government on the arts and traditional economy. “All of Canada would profit more, because it’s not just Inuit. It’s all about Canadian artists.”
Creators in many fields, such as musicians and authors, collect royalties every time their works are used or purchased. But for commercial exchanges of artwork, the only money artists make is from the initial sale, although they can receive license fees if their creations are exhibited or reproduced.