California Booksellers Oppose Autographed Memorabilia Law

Two prominent California booksellers--Scott Brown, co-owner of Eureka Books in Eureka, and Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage in Corte Madera and San Francisco--have written letters to their representatives in opposition to Assembly Bill 1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 9 and requires dealers in any autographed material to provide certificates of authenticity (COA) for any signed item sold for $5 or more.

Brown and Petrocelli assert that though the law is intended to regulate the sale of sports and movie memorabilia and combat "forgery mills," it will have drastic, unintended consequences for the sale of signed books, paintings, sculptures and almost every other type of artwork. Under the law, which would go into effect next January, COAs for signed memorabilia would have to include a description of the collectible and name of the person who autographed it; include either the purchase price and date of sale or be accompanied by a separate invoice with that information; indicate whether the item was autographed in the presence of the dealer with specified date and location and name of witness; or, in the event that it was obtained or purchased from a third party, indicate the name and address of that party. Dealers must also keep their copies of these COAs for at least seven years.

Both Petrocelli and Brown said they feared that these restrictions could constitute invasions of privacy, greatly hinder the ability of California stores to run book fairs and author signings, and put California sellers of rare and antiquated books at a disadvantage compared to vendors from other states. The penalties imposed by the law also have the potential to be financially huge.

"AB1570, however well meaning, was made overly broad, affecting thousands of businesses in California and hurting many of the consumers the law was designed to protect," wrote Scott Brown. "I urge [lawmakers] to amend or repeal the law before its unintended consequences hurt me, my wife, my customers, and millions of other Californians."

"Assembly Bill 1570 appears to impose an onerous, expensive, and potentially ruinous burden on the sale of every autographed book in this state," wrote Petrocelli, who is an attorney. "This could severely harm our business. The purpose of the Bill was apparently go after the people who trade in fraudulent celebrity autographs. Although these people may have been the target, the Legislature has seriously misfired and hit the small, family-owned bookstores that are such a vital part of California life." --Alex Mutter

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