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 auction, you 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.