Passed last year, California Assembly Bill No. 1570 expanded the state's law on autographs from its original focus on entertainment and sports memorabilia to include signed books and basically anything with an autograph. Bay Area bookstore chain Book Passage, which is basically three locations of wall-to-wall signed books, filed a lawsuit against the state alleging that the bill violates the store's First Amendment right to free speech.

Book Passage, with stores in San Francisco, Corte Madera, and Sausalito, hosts a ton of author events in which writers and readers mingle and mix. There's also a lot of book signing going on. "Author events are vital to the free exchange of ideas. They are places where people can go to be exposed to new ideas, debate with authors, and interact with other consumers. But the new law deters, if not effectively bans, these events," explained Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Anastasia Boden in a press release.

Basically, the new law applies to signed books (with a value of over $5) in the following ways:

  • Sellers (bookstores) must personally guarantee the authenticity of each autograph.
  • They must provide a certificate of authenticity with the name and address of the person from whom they obtained the signed item, including the date and place of the signing, and names of the witnesses who watched the signing.
  • Sellers must state whether they are bonded, and note whether the item is part of a limited edition, the size of the edition, and whether future editions are in the works.
  • And they've got to keeps records of all of this for at least seven years.

According to Book Passage's co-owner Bill Petrocelli, "The tradition of author events at bookstores, with opportunities for direct interaction between writers and readers, will be shattered."

The lawsuit, Passage v. Becerra, was filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Xavier Becerra, FYI, is our state's Attorney General.