Autographed Books Excluded From California Collectibles Crackdown

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A California law cracking down on phony autographed sports and entertainment memorabilia has been amended to exclude signed books, ending a First Amendment lawsuit from a Bay Area bookstore.

Bill Petrocelli, owner of three Book Passage bookstores, sued California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in May, challenging Assembly Bill 1570 on constitutional grounds.

He claimed the law made it difficult to host events with authors and sell autographed books.

AB 1570 requires signed collectibles to contain a certificate of authenticity. The certificate must include a description of the item, the identity of the signer, and witnesses, and retailers must keep copies of the certificates for seven years.

The law was meant to prevent forged entertainment and sports memorabilia from being sold, but Petrocelli said it subjected him and his stores to criminal fines and civil penalties.

He said AB 1570 violated the Equal Protection Clause because it imposed burdens bookstores, while exempting pawn shops and certain internet retailers.

The bill was sponsored by then-Assemblyman Ling Ling Chang, and was supported by “Star Wars” actor Mark Hammill.

Shortly after the bill was signed into law, Chang issued a clarification stipulating that it did not apply to bookstores or author signings

Governor Jerry Brown last week signed AB 228, amending AB 1570, and Petrocelli voluntarily dismissed his complaint Wednesday, as moot.

Under the notice of dismissal, the parties are responsible for their own attorney fees.

Under the amended law, “autographed collectible” mean “an autographed sports or entertainment media item” sold for $50 or more. It does not include books, fine art or furniture.

Anastasia Boden, who represented Petrocelli, called the corrected law “a victory for common sense, small businesses, and free speech.”
“[The previous law] made little sense when applied to stores like Book Passage, which sells books that are autographed in the consumers’ presence, and thus present no risk of fraud,” Boden said in an email.

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