Last year, in an effort to curb the sale of fraudulently signed sports memorabilia and other memorabilia, the state of California passed a law that also affects the sale of books signed by the author. Although the sponsor of the bill claims that it was not meant to apply to bookstores and booksellers, it appears that such an exclusion isn’t actually in the law itself, although EBay did get itself an exclusion, as did pawnbrokers.
Under California AB 1570, when a California consumer sells an autographed item worth $5 or more, the consumer’s name and address must be included on a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). This requirement also applies to anyone reselling the item as authentic, be it a bookseller, auction house, comic book dealer, antiques dealer, autograph dealer, art dealer, an estate sales company, or even a charity. Copies of the certificate must be kept for seven years. Equally significant is the requirement for sellers to disclose the name and address of the person from whom they acquired the signed book – which is a violation of their right to privacy (a right which is also protected by law in California).
The COA must (1) Describe the collectible and specify the name of the personality who autographed it. (2) Either specify the purchase price and date of sale or be accompanied by a separate invoice setting forth that information. (3) Contain an express warranty, which shall be conclusively presumed to be part of the bargain, of the authenticity of the collectible… (4) Specify whether the collectible is offered as one of a limited edition… (5) Indicate whether the dealer is surety bonded… (6) Indicate the last four digits of the dealer’s resale certificate number… (7) Indicate whether the item was autographed in the presence of the dealer and specify the date and location of, and the name of a witness to, the autograph signing. (8) Indicate whether the item was obtained or purchased from a third party. If so, indicate the name and address of this third party. (9) Include an identifying serial number that corresponds to an identifying number printed on the collectible item, if any….
That means, among other things, that the law applies to anyone engaged in the online sale of signed items. So, if a bookstore holds an author signing for the author’s latest book and then offers the signed books on its website, it is engaged in the online business of selling signed items. Easton Press, which has a business of selling autographed new books, now refuses to sell such books in California presumably because of the paperwork requirements. So do at least three other national collectible book dealers.
I know that both Borderlands Books in San Francisco and Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego have shipped signed copies of my books in the past, and, of course, Subterranean Press offers signed limited editions of the books of scores of authors, all of which would seem to be subject to the law – which also has penalties, as stated in the law itself:
“ Any consumer injured by the failure of a dealer to provide a certificate of authenticity containing the information required by this section, or by a dealer’s furnishing of a certificate of authenticity that is false, shall be entitled to recover, in addition to actual damages, a civil penalty in an amount equal to 10 times actual damages, plus court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, interest, and expert witness fees…”
All that strikes me as pretty onerous for a signed book.