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AB1570

Legislators Run from Their Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Law

January 7th, 2017  |  by  |  published in AB1570, Blog, Bookselling

You know a law is bad when the legislators who sponsored it pretend it never happened.

That’s what has happened with California’s new autograph law. (AB1570) The bill’s author, Ling Ling Chang, lost her bid for the state Senate and is no longer in office. But a number of her co-sponsors are still in the legislature.

Here’s what they publicly say about AB1570.

Cristina Garcia (D). State Assembly 58th District and the Democrat that got the law passed (nothing gets passed in the California legislature without a powerful Democrat behind it). Nothing about AB1570 on her website. Her staff told me Ms. Garcia was “too busy” to work on fixing this law.

If you oppose this law, let Member Garcia know about it on Facebook (@cristinagarciaad58) or Twitter (@AsmGarcia)

Joel Anderson (R), State Senate 38th District. On his list of legislative “achievements” as Senate co-author.

If you oppose this law, let Mr. Anderson know you don’t think it’s much of an achievement on Facebook (@senatorjoelanderson) or Twitter (@JoelAndersonCA)

Catharine Baker (R). State Assembly 16th District. No mention of the law on her website.
William C. Brough (R). State Assembly 73rd District. No mention.
James Gallagher (R). State Assembly 3rd District. Nada.
Tom Lackey (R). State Assembly 36th District. Zilch.
Benjamin Allen (D), State Senate 26th District. Zippo.
Tom Berryhill (R), State Senate 8th District. Not a peep.
Janet Nguyen (R), State Senate 34th District. Silence.

 


Not a Coincidence: The Easton Press Has Stopped Shipping to California

January 4th, 2017  |  by  |  published in AB1570, Blog, Bookselling

neil-gaiman-easton

Sign our Change.org petition to repeal this law.

The first consequence of California’s terrible autograph law: the Easton Press has stopped shipping signed books to California. On January 6, we obtained the following statement from the Easton Press, sent to a California collector:

Unfortunately, a law recently passed by the California legislature has made it prohibitively expensive to sell autographed collectibles to customers in your state. The law apparently was written with good intentions to deter sellers of counterfeit celebrity signatures.  However, it was written so broadly that it has added many layers of bureaucracy for legitimate sellers of signed merchandise, like Easton Press.

We are not the only booksellers who are outraged by this law and we are hopeful that the California assembly will hear these complaints and amend the law to provide an exception for the sale of signed books.  If this occurs, we will reach out to you immediately to offer you our signed editions.

California’s new law governing the sale of autographed items requires, among other things, keeping copies of Certificates of Authenticity (COAs) for seven years and printing the address of the signing author on the COA.

A few of the authors affected: Neil Gaiman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carol Burnett, and many others.

Please sign our Change.org petition. We need your support to convince the legislature to change the law.

More on AB1570.

This post has been updated several times to add additional information.


AB1570 in Plain English

January 3rd, 2017  |  by  |  published in AB1570, Blog, 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.”

Repeal California’s Terrible Autograph Law

January 3rd, 2017  |  by  |  published in AB1570, Book Collecting, Bookselling, Feature

gaiman-easton-small

Here’s my New Year’s resolution: Repeal California’s terrible new autograph law.

Sign our Change.org petition to repeal the law.

The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board called it the worst of the 1000 bills passed in 2016, referring to it as “one truly horrible law” and writing, “This bill never should have passed. The Legislature must fix or repeal it immediately when it resumes business.” So let’s get to it!

As a fitting cumeuppance, the author of the law, Ling Ling Chang, was defeated in her quest for re-election. Here are the bill’s sitting co-sponsors:

Cristina Garcia. State Assembly 58th District. Downey area, Los Angeles

Catharine Baker. State Assembly 16th District. Walnut Creek / Pleasanton, East Bay
William C. Brough. State Assembly 73rd District. San Clemente area, Southern California
James Gallagher. State Assembly 3rd District. Chico, Northern California
Tom Lackey. State Assembly 36th District. Lancaster / Palmdale, Southern California

Benjamin Allen, State Senate 26th District. Santa Monica / Beverly Hills, Los Angeles area
Joel Anderson, State Senate 38th District. Escondido / El Cajon, San Diego area
Tom Berryhill, State Senate 8th District. Fresno area
Janet Nguyen, State Senate 34th District. Santa Ana area, Southern California

[More blog posts on AB1570]

Top 7 Reasons to Repeal AB1570

1. Most Californians Are Harmed
Nearly everyone in California has a signed item in their possession: a signed book, a piece of art, or perhaps a signed baseball from their childhood.

Under AB1570, when a California consumer sells a signed item worth $5 or more to a reputable dealer, to an art gallery, or via auction, the consumer’s name and address must be included on a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) accompanying it.

This requirement is both an invasion of privacy and represents a danger to the seller, as the COA provides a literal road map for potential thieves.

The law offers not accommodation for items sold to dealers before the law went into effect, thereby retroactively changing the expected privacy of previous transactions.

2. It Partially Repeals the Landmark Reader Privacy Act
The Reader Privacy statute prohibits booksellers from revealing the reading habits of their customers unless compelled by a court order.

AB1570 now requires some booksellers to disclose the reading habits of customers who sell, donate, or otherwise dispose of signed books. The autograph law unintentionally weakens the Reader Privacy Act.

Michael Risher, a lawyer with the ACLU of Northern California, told the New York Times, “The law is an invasion into privacy and should be amended.”

3. The Law Exposes the Very Consumers It Intended to Protect to Lawsuits
For purposes of this law, a “dealer” is defined to include California consumers who sell signed items at auction (Dealer includes … “persons who are consignors … of auctioneers.”)

Any consumer who sells a signed item through an auction house is a consignor and therefore by definition a dealer. When a dealer fails to supply a COA, they are subject to civil action under AB1570.

4. It Compels Auction Houses to Reveal Their Consignors
All auction houses are covered by AB1570, whenever they sell a signed item. In addition to requiring a COA from each consignor, AB1570 requires a second COA from the auction house itself. This COA must include the name and address of the source of the item (the consignor). This provision would cover estate auctions, auction sales of signed artwork, signed books, or signed entertainment memorabilia.

Confidentiality of consignors is a tenet of auction houses. The New York Times recently quoted a representative of Bloomsbury Auctions as saying, “one of the fundamental cornerstones of the auction world is our client’s privacy.” Not anymore; not in California. This puts California auctioneers at a distinct disadvantage.

 5. New Bookstores Seem to Be Covered By the Law If They Sell Online (and they all do)
Many aspects of AB1570 are maddeningly vague, but this is the single worst sentence in the single worst law of the year:

Dealers, to whom the law applies, “includes a person engaged in a mail order, telephone order, online, or cable television business for the sale of collectibles [signed items].” (1739.7(a)(4)(a)).

Rewording it: This law applies to anyone engaged in the online sale of signed items. So, if a new bookstore holds an author signing and then offers the signed books on its website, it is engaged in the online business of selling signed items.

There is a temptation to read “engaged in business” as primarily in the business, but engaged is, in fact, a much lower threshold, that is met with even a small volume of business. Businesses primarily engaged in the selling signed items are covered by other sections of the law, so presumably the legislature meant to extend the law to a much broader group of online sellers.

It should be noted that once someone meets the definition of dealer that all signed items sold by that business must have COAs.

6. Seven Years of Recordkeeping Is Ridiculous for a $5 Item
Dealers are required to keep copies of the COAs they issue for seven years and they are required to issue COAs for items priced at as little as $5.

7. AB1570 Hurts Book Fairs and Art Shows
Out-of-state dealers are required to comply with the autograph law when exhibiting at shows in California. Show promoters are required to notify dealers that they are subject to legal action for failing to comply. Already, this law has caused two dealers to cancel participation in the 50th Annual California Antiquarian Book Fair. The law will also deter out-of-state art dealers from exhibiting in California. This will ultimately hurt collectors.

 


A Reply to The Scrivener and the Seattle Review of Books

October 5th, 2016  |  by  |  published in AB1570, Blog, Bookselling

bookselling-still-legal

Phew! That’s a relief.

That is the headline from earlier today in the Seattle Review of Books, which published a critique of the hue and cry raised over the new California law governing signed items, including books.

The post claims that “the law blog Scrivener’s Error sets that bookstore straight,” asserting that AB 1570 does not apply to bookstores.

As the owner of “that” bookstore, I feel the need to respond.

In the first place, my post was headlined, “Your Signed Books and Artwork Just Got Harder to Sell in California [emphasis added].” My main point is that the law requires me to give your name and address to the buyer of any book you sell me that happens to be signed. The law applies to everything over $4.99. If you sell anything signed at auctionyou have to provide a certificate of authenticity to the buyer. If the item turns out to be a fake or you fail to provide at COA, the buyer can sue you for ten times damages, plus court costs. Before this law, the auction house provided authentication services and stood between you and the ultimate buyer. Not any more.

This law covers anything signed that sells for more than $4.99: used paperback books, signed first editions, greeting cards, paintings, signed prints and photographs, signed glassware, etc. Virtually everyone in California has items that meet that definition, and everyone’s stuff eventually gets sold, either voluntarily or by their heirs.

The Seattle Review of Books and Scrivener’s Error are correct that the new law probably doesn’t apply to general bookstores. I never claimed it did.

What I said and still maintain is that for some of the largest and most important independent bookstores, the law could hamper their ability to host author events. That opinion comes from Bill Petrocelli, an attorney whose wife runs Book Passage, one of the most important bookstores in California. They depend heavily on book signings and could qualify as dealers under the law. Unlike the previous law governing sports collectibles and art multiples, which had no enforcement provisions, this law calls for ten times civil damages, a number that can quickly attract frivolous lawsuits.

As for the law applying to Eureka Books, we are subject to its provisions because we are “experts”, or so we are informed by two different legal counsels. The law therefore applies to everything we sell that is signed.

The issues are complex, but if you want to take a deep dive, complete with sources, please read on.


Your Signed Books and Artwork Just Got Harder to Sell in California

September 26th, 2016  |  by  |  published in AB1570, Blog, Bookselling, Feature 2

John_Hancock_Envelope_Signature

Background on AB1570, a new law covering autographed items in California

More on AB1570 here.

On September 9, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia into law.

The law requires dealers in any autographed material to provide certificates of authenticity (COA) for signed item sold for $5 or more.

The idea is to crack down on fraudulent autograph sales. “That sounds pretty reasonable,” you are probably thinking. I, too, can get behind the motive.

Unfortunately for you, the consumer, the legislators never seem to have considered that buyers of autograph material eventually become sellers of autograph material.

Let’s say you like to go to author events and get books signed. Eventually, your shelves fill up, and you want to trade books in at a shop like Eureka Books.

Guess what? Remember that Certificate of Authenticity that sounded so reasonable? Well your name and address has to go on the certificate of authenticity because I (as the person issuing the COA) have to say where I got the book. This applies to signed books, artwork, and any other autographed items you own.

[If you are concerned about this legislation, which goes into effect on January 1, 2017, please contact your state legislators]

Maybe you’d like to sell that Morris Graves painting you inherited. You send it to an auction house, where it sells for $40,000. Good for you. But did you supply a Certificate of Authenticity? What? Why do I have to issue a COA? What do I know about authenticating Morris Graves paintings?

Guess what? AB1570 requires YOU, as the owner of the painting, to guarantee its authenticity. And you don’t issue the COA? You can be liable for TEN TIMES damages, plus attorneys fees. Call it a cool half mill, because you didn’t know you were supposed to issue a COA.

Maybe you decide to sell it at an auction house outside of California. Good luck, because if the person who buys your painting lives in the Golden State, the law still applies.

Consumers aren’t the only ones significantly affected by this law.

Consider bookstores that do a lot of author events. Let’s imagine that Neil Gaiman does one of his typical massive book signings in February for his forthcoming book, Norse Mythology. Say 1000 people show up and buy books at $25.95. The bookstore either has to issue 1000 COA, or risk being sued for $25.95 x 1000 x 10, plus attorney’s fees. Call it $300,000.

Is it any wonder that many of California’s best bookstores are very worried that this law will make it much harder to hold book signings and other author events. The legislature and the governor apparently had a similar response, because the law was passed with almost no discussion.

Please contact your state legislator.

Sources
“Your name and address has to go on the certificate”: Section 1739.7b(8) says the COA must “Indicate whether the item was obtained or purchased from a third party. If so, indicate the name and address of this third party.”

“Why do I have to issue a COA?”: Section 1739.7a(4)a:  “Dealer includes an auctioneer who sells collectibles at a public auction, and also includes persons who are consignors or representatives or agents of auctioneers.”


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