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Case Summary

Estate of Robert Graham v. Sotheby's; Sam Francis Foundation v. Christie's

Estate of Robert Graham v. Sotheby’s (consolidated), 860 F. Supp.2d 1117 (C.D. Cal. 2012); aff'd in part and remanded, sub nom. Sam Francis Foundation v. Christie’s, 784 F.3d 1320 (9th Cir. 2015); dismissed, Estate of Robert Graham v. Sotheby’s, No. 11-cv-08604 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 11, 2016); aff'd in part and remanded, sub nom. Chuck Close v. Sotheby's, No. 16-56234 (9th Cir. July 6, 2018). 

In this noteworthy case, a California federal court struck down the entirety of the California Resale Royalty Act (CRRA), the only law in the U.S. recognizing resale royalty rights (droit de suite) for artists. The district court held that because the statute had the potential to affect sales outside of California, it violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The appellate court affirmed in part, striking only the portion of the law that applied to out-of-state sales. The plaintiffs’ claims for resale royalties were then dismissed by the district court as preempted by the Copyright Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed, but ruled . . . .

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