The lives of antique booksellers in California are about to get a little harder if a state law that’s just been passed takes effect next year.
The law in question goes by the name “AB-1570 Collectibles: sale of autographed memorabilia,” and governs the sales of any autographed items. The law supersedes existing California law, which had previously only been directed at sports memorabilia. The law requires that any autographed item sold for more than $5 must include a certificate of authenticity including information about the dealer, where and how the item was signed, and the name and address of any third party from whom it was purchased. The law was undoubtedly aimed at shutting down forgery mills, but it was written so broadly that it will make things a lot harder for anyone dealing in autographed goods.
You don’t have to think about this law for very long before you realize how problematic it would be for antique and second-hand booksellers, some of whom carry hundreds or thousands of autographed copies of books. Given that few such books would sell for less than $5, this means that these booksellers must either create individual certificates of authenticity for each book, or else discard thousands of dollars in inventory that is no longer salable. Even if they were to create such certificates, in the case of a third party purchase the certificates would have to include the personal information of whoever sold it to them–a clear violation of privacy.
It would also apply to any art gallery that sold original works–and the ramifications for San Diego Comic Con and other conventions that have “artist’s alleys” where artists can set up booths to sell (and autograph) their own artwork might also be considerable–to say nothing of authors who set up to do the same thing for their books. What if everyone who sold an autographed book or sketch had to make out a certificate of authenticity when they sold it? (The law says that “the person who signed the memorabilia” isn’t considered a “dealer,” but if they’re also the one who sells the work in question, they should still be on the hook for it.) Likewise, it will also affect out-of-state dealers who want to sell to California residents, or who come to those conventions to display their art.
It’s hard to believe this law could have been passed without any consultation or notification of the people most likely to be affected by it, but it did, and it’s set to take effect on the first of the year. The owners of Eureka Books and Book Passage are writing their representatives pointing out the problems with the law. It remains to be seen whether their protests will have any effect.
Of course, this is an area where ebooks have little cause for concern, given that “autographed” ebooks aren’t currently a thing (despite the efforts of companies like Autography, Barnes & Noble, and Keeper Kase to make it possible) and even if they were, you couldn’t resell them after you got them signed. But people still like reading paper books, and they also like having them signed as tangible proof they met the author. It sounds like this ill-considered law will make that a whole lot more complicated for everybody.
I believe I would move my bookstore to another state if I was in that situation.
Hey, Chris. This is California, the land of fruits and nuts. Laws need not make sense to pass there. Indeed, the dumber the law, the more likely it will end up on the books.
As you note, the law is stupid. For less expensive books, certification simply isn’t worth the added cost, even assuming one could be created for signings that took place years in the past. Someone who pays an extra $10 for a Clancy-signed copy of The Hunt for Red October isn’t fretting that the signature might be a fake. Even it such were proved, he’s not out much.
For the more expensive authographed copies, say a first edition of The Hobbit with Tolkien’s signature, there’s no problem either. Such books sell for over $100,000 and the buyer will insist on solid documentation. Laws aren’t needed where the buyers are careful.
Nor will the law do much good. It’s as easy to fake that documentation as it is the signature. Those who watch the old Lovejoy series about a somewhat shady dealer in antiques knows that he wasn’t above creating a bogus document or two. I don’t have time to find an actual episode of that, but here’s an example of the show.
Quite funny, particularly if you take the time to learn the roles played.
The good news is that this law will simply mean that sales move out of state. Collecting for those in the state will be a bit more trouble—much like every other aspect of living in California.
It dates me, but I’m old enough to remember when living in California was considered “cool.” That ended sometime in the late 1970s, dying the death of a thousand cuts.
Considering that your judgment about California is coming from a Red State perspective, that’s a compliment.
Fact is, this is an industry which is so rife with fraud and which has done absolutely NOTHING to police itself that it’s about damned time that people are finally being protected from the fraudsters and Trump-wannabes in this crowd.
Asking those selling this crap — the majority of which is fraudulent — to do something more than “trust me” is what a progressive society should do. Don’t worry, though, you can always visit a Red State and get all of the fraudulent stuff — or SELL all the fraudulent stuff which we can suspect is more important to you — that you want.
Relax, Red States will still allow you to screw their citizens.
Yes, it’s terribly important for the State to dictate every aspect of everyone’s lives, so everyone can be “protected” from their bad decisions.
Do you hear that…?
That’s the sound of the chains coming for you.
Horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. You’re supporting your own death sentence.
Yes, we need the State to micromanage every aspect of everyone’s lives, so everyone can be “protected” from their bad decisions.
Do you hear that….?
It’s the sound of the chains coming for you.
Horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. You’re supporting your own death sentence.
It might be easy for artists and authors to get around this law by selling a plain copy of their work to the customer first, then offering to sign the customer’s copy, if the customer wanted, at no extra charge. The author didn’t actually sell an autographed copy, so the law wouldn’t apply.
If the customer tried to re-sell the autographed book a day or a year later, that customer would have to be careful. Also, if an author signed a stack of unsold copies, and left them at a bookstore that hosted a signing event, then that store would be liable if they tried to sell the signed copies.
Silly, isn’t it.
I wonder if the law would trap people who routinely put their own name on the flyleaf of books that they buy? Would a copy of the US constitution signed by Donald Trump be subject to the law? Would a copy of Hamlet, signed by John Doe also be subject to the law?
Memorabilia fraud is conservatively estimated at $100 million per year and popular signatures have between a 60% – 90% chance of being fraudulent.
In the face of those numbers, it’s about damned time that *some* government has stepped up to protect its citizens from this vermin.
Seems to me that the only way you’d be against this legislation is if you’re in the business of defrauding folks so, sorry criminals, California just put your thieving asses out of business to 1 out of every 8 Americans. Go find a real job, Crooks.
Memorabilia fraud of which kind? I’ve never heard of anyone doing a land office business in books with an author’s signature forged onto them. Now, sports memorabilia, that I can understand being a big business, just because sports is a big business. But there’s just not that much money in autographed books. It doesn’t seem as though even fans of John Grisham or Stephen King would find it worth their while to pay the sort of inflated prices for an inscribed book that sports fans do for autographed bats, balls, etc.
Surely the law could be narrowed in such a way as not to target anyone who wants to sell a paperback some author scribbled in.
Enough. Your liberal/Marxist ideology destroys lives.
The solution is for people to take responsibility for themselves and NOT pay for autographs that they don’t know are authentic, OR simply accept that they can’t know, and buy anyways.
The solution is not yet…another…law…
“Seems to me that the only way you’d be against this legislation is if you’re in the business of defrauding folks so, ”
Right…it couldn’t be because more governmental control isn’t the answer. No, couldn’t be. If you’re opposed to more government control over everyone, it must be because you’re a fraud trying to hide something.
How incredibly frightening.
I truly…for your sake…hope that no one ever accuses you of that which you are not guilty, using your same “logic”…you will find out firsthand how hideous your thinking really is.
I’m not going to judge this particular law, but a caveat emptor attitude does not always cut the mustard. There should be some form of consumer protection. There is the potential for fraud out there and not everyone is able to make good judgments about what is authentic or not. That’s why we have laws or social constructs to better society.
The lack of regulation in the selling of fake autographs may fall short of a brutal Hobbsian state of nature, but think it’s good that California wants to acknowledge the issue and seek a solution.
I don’t disagree. But this “solution” is rife with an amazing quantity of unintended consequences.
Mark Hamill campaigned fot the law http://www.dailynews.com/government-and-politics/20160920/star-wars-actor-mark-hamill-touts-new-hope-for-crackdown-on-fake-autographs
As a published creator, I don’t see providing authenifying things to accompany any of my works as a problem. Makes the work special. When a person buys a piece from the creator, it is a special moment. I bought a print from an artist, and he embossed it with a hand held embosser. Classy. But this isn’t about the creator, it’s about the reseller. I’m not a household name, but I have seen forged books of mine online more than once. This indicates to me that there is a problem. So I favor tools for authentification.
If they are going to have such a law at all, it should not restrict the sale of items over a fixed dollar value. It should restrict the sale of items for more than a certain amount (or perhaps a percentage) over the fair market value of the item without the signature. In other words, you would still be able to sell your signed rare book for $100 if that book is worth $100 unsigned. Otherwise, the law has the perverse effect of making autographed books LESS valuable than ones that are unsigned.
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As written, this law will have the perverse effect of making autographed books LESS valuable than books that have not been signed. If there is going to be any restriction at all, it should limit the sale of signed items for more than a certain amount (or maybe percentage) over the fair market value of an unsigned version of the same item. So you could still sell your signed rare book for $100 if a copy of that book is worth that much, but if you want to sell it for $1000 you might need some evidence of its authenticity.
Another idiotic law. What’s to prevent someone from providing a phony “certificate of authenticity?” Another insane law passed by the insane politicians and signed into law by Governor Moonbeam. Mexifornia has truly become part of the “Twilight Zone.”
Real collectors go out and get their own autographs, buying autographs or any item of memorabilia is a pathetic way of collecting. Putting that aside, this law has not been thought out by people no way near intelligent enough to do this! But that’s American for you, land of the dumb!