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AB1570 in Plain English

January 3rd, 2017  |  Published in AB1570, Blogs, Bookselling

AB 1570 is a law regulating the sale of signed items in California.

This is a lay persons interpretation and should not be considered legal advice (Life tip: don’t take legal advice from a blog). Read it for yourself.

Who Has to Comply with the Law?

  1. Autograph dealers
  2. Art galleries
  3. Auction houses
  4. Anyone who consigns signed items to auction
  5. Anyone with “knowledge” of signed items, such as professional booksellers and antiques dealers
  6. Anyone offering signed items for sale online (this part is debatable as the law is badly written).

What Kind of Autographs Are Covered?

Anything signed by a “personality” and sold by anyone listed above for more than $5.

What is a personality? The standard dictionary definition is “a person of importance, prominence, renown, or notoriety” or “a famous person, especially in entertainment or sports.” At Eureka Books, we’re defining it as anyone with a Wikipedia entry.

However, the standard legal definition of personality is basically a person: “the quality, state, or fact of being a person.” The Legislative Counsel’s summary of the bill seems to imply this definition, explaining that the law applies to “all autographed items.” (Legislative Counsel’s Digest, paragraph 4). So if you are cautious, everything described as signed should be accompanied by a COA.

What Do You Have to Do?

  1. Issue Certificates of Authenticity, meeting specific requirements, with each signed item you sell for more than $5. The most problematic requirement is the listing of the name and address of your source for the autographed item

COAs must include:
a.    The dealer’s true legal name and street address
b.    A description of the item and the name of the person who signed it
c.    Purchase price and date of sale (an invoice can be substituted for this)
d.    An express warantee of the authenticity of the item
e.    The specifications of the edition size, if part of a limited edition
f.    The item number, if any, from the edition (this must also be included on the invoice)
g.    A notice of whether the dealer is bonded
h.    Last four digits of the dealer’s resale certificate number
i.    An indication of whether the item was signed in the dealer’s presence, and if so, the date, location, and the name of a witness to the signing.
j.    If the item was not signed in the dealer’s presence, the name and address of the person from whom the item was acquired.

Copies of COAs must be kept for seven years. For a bill written by Republicans, this is a particularly ridiculous paperwork requirement for items worth $5.

2. Post the following sign at your place of business (if bricks and mortar):
“SALE OF AUTOGRAPHED MEMORABILIA: AS REQUIRED BY LAW, A DEALER WHO SELLS TO A CONSUMER ANY MEMORABILIA DESCRIBED AS BEING AUTOGRAPHED MUST PROVIDE A WRITTEN CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY AT THE TIME OF SALE. THIS DEALER MAY BE SURETY BONDED OR OTHERWISE INSURED TO ENSURE THE AUTHENTICITY OF ANY COLLECTIBLE SOLD BY THIS DEALER.”

3. If you exhibit at a show principally devoted to signed items, such as art shows, you must make sure sample COAs are on display at the entrances or you are legally prohibited from exhibiting (see section F of the law).

How Can You Avoid This Law

  1. Don’t sell too many signed items
  2. Don’t represent yourself as an expert. Preface comments about signatures with “I’m no expert, but…”
  3. Avoid statements of facts about signatures, like “Signed by the artist on the lower right corner.” Statements of fact suggest knowledge and if you have knowledge, you’re covered by the law. State, instead, “Appears to be signed by the artist…” or “Signed ‘Jane Doe’ in bottom corner.” Note the difference between “Signed ‘Jane Doe’” and “Signed by Jane Doe.” The first is a statement of fact; the second is a conclusion.
  4. Don’t consign signed items to California auctioneers.

What Do Fair Promoters Have to Do

If you organize a book fair, comic book convention, or art fair where signed items are sold or where autographing sessions will be held, you must:

  1. Issue the following notice to exhibitors when they sign up:
    “As a vendor at this collectibles trade show, you are a professional representative of this hobby. As a result, you will be required to follow the laws of this state, including laws regarding the sale and display of collectibles, as defined in Section 1739.7 of the Civil Code, forged and counterfeit collectibles and autographs, and mint and limited edition collectibles. If you do not obey the laws, you may be evicted from this trade show, be reported to law enforcement, and be held liable for a civil penalty of 10 times the amount of damages.”
  2. Display sample COAs at the entrances.
  3. Post in every booth a sign reading:
    “SALE OF AUTOGRAPHED MEMORABILIA: AS REQUIRED BY LAW, A DEALER WHO SELLS TO A CONSUMER ANY MEMORABILIA DESCRIBED AS BEING AUTOGRAPHED MUST PROVIDE A WRITTEN CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY AT THE TIME OF SALE. THIS DEALER MAY BE SURETY BONDED OR OTHERWISE INSURED TO ENSURE THE AUTHENTICITY OF ANY COLLECTIBLE SOLD BY THIS DEALER.”

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