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A federal tribunal has ordered the National Gallery of Canada to the bargaining table, telling the Ottawa art museum it has 60 days to start negotiating with artists' groups about the fees it pays to exhibit or reproduce their work.

Negotiations begun in 2003 had broken down in 2007 when the NGC presented artists with an offer that excluded any discussion of copyright, refusing to include a fee schedule for showing art or reproducing it on its website.

"It's not that they have refused to bargain, it's just they have refused to bargain anything of substance or meaning," said April Britski, executive director of CARFAC, the artists' group that filed a complaint with the tribunal along with its sister organization in Quebec.

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While the NGC does currently pay exhibition fees, it does so voluntarily, and often asks artists to forgo any fee for using their work on the gallery's website, Britski said. CARFAC is seeking a negotiated fee schedule.

Currently, its recommended minimum for a three-month solo exhibition at a large public gallery is $2,251 while it suggests artists be paid $25 for every work that is reproduced on a website for the duration of an exhibition.

CARFAC has the right to negotiate such schedules under the federal Status of the Artist Act, legislation that came into force in the 1990s; groups such as the National Arts Centre and the CBC have already successfully negotiated with performers' unions under the act.

The Canadian Artists and Producers Professional Relations Tribunal, which oversees the act, found the NGC was bargaining in bad faith when it presented the artists with a take-it-or-leave-it offer that removed any discussion of minimum fees from the table.

The gallery has 45 days to report back with a bargaining schedule and 60 days to begin bargaining.

The NGC had argued the act does not require it to negotiate legal minimums for copyright; a spokesperson said yesterday that the gallery is reviewing the ruling and would make no further comment.

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