California’s controversial law that requires booksellers to obtain a certificate of authenticity before they could sell books autographed by authors has been rescinded.
The move follows a lawsuit filed in May by Book Passage owner Bill Petrocelli and backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation that argued that common bookstore practices like guest author lectures and book signings “are fundamental to First Amendment freedoms.” The original law was enacted to require that store owners certify that any autographed item over $5 carry an authentic signature. The law was passed to fight against the sale of fake memorabilia, but included books.
Petrocelli, as well as other California booksellers, argued that the paperwork involved to meet the new law would make selling copies of autographed books too expensive. Book signings are an important part of booksellers’ business model, with Book Passage, for example, hosting more than 800 signings a year.
Faced with the lawsuit and opposition from booksellers, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that exempted books from the law, after which the PLF dropped its lawsuit.
Petrocelli told PW he was happy to return to bookselling without the so-called Autograph Law hanging over his head.
“Something good came out of this process: the opportunity to express to the public the importance of independent bookstores,” said Petrocelli. “Book signings are part and parcel of the interaction between author and reader. It’s a dialogue, the kind of thing the First Amendment is designed to allow.”