California is known for having some pretty difficult laws where freelancers are concerned – and LA has even more, but here’s a new one that may make the simple, joyous transaction of getting your graphic novel signed very difficult. As explained by Eureka Books a new law aimed at shutting down autograph mills has put in place a very onerous list of requirements for getting anything valued at more than $5 signed. Everything will need to have a Certificate of Authority.
You might think, “Oh, you can just have a generic COA.” No. The COA has to:
Describe the collectible and specify the name of the personality who autographed it.
Either specify the purchase price and date of sale or be accompanied by a separate invoice setting forth that information.
Indicate whether the item was autographed in the presence of the dealer and specify the date and location of, and the name of a witness to, the autograph signing.
Indicate whether the item was obtained or purchased from a third party. If so, indicate the name and address of this third party.
The law applies to any “autographed item sold or offered for sale in or from this state by a dealer to a consumer for five dollars ($5) or more.”
Obviously doing all this for getting a signed comic book, graphic novel or artwork would be very time consuming. There are other problems described in the above post, which I urge you to read.
Retailer Brian Hibbs has posted the letter he wrote to his assemblyman on his FB page and we’re taking the liberty of reproducing it here:
My letter to my Assemblyman, read other bookseller’s views in the link below:
Dear Assemblyman David Chiu,
I am writing to you today because it has just come to my attention that the Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1570, which the Governor signed into law 9/9/16. I assume that the intention of the bill was to help combat fraudulent “autograph mills” for collectibles, but because it is written so broadly, the actual real world consequences of this bill will likely be devastating for thousands of legitimate California-based Book and Comic Book stores.
1570 demands that every signed item sold for more than $5 be given a “Certificate of Authenticity” – and not just a generic one, but a detailed one with nine (!) different criteria that must be individually detailed as to an item’s providence, including ones that raise potential privacy issues for customers who sold items to us, as it appears to be written to apply retroactively. Moreover we’re expected to retain records of the transaction for up to 7 years.
I own two comic book stores in San Francisco, and we do dozens of author events each year. As a general rule of thumb author events are break-even at best, but we aggressively pursue them in order to foster literacy, and to promote art and expression within our local community. At these events, we have authors sign all of our inventory which we then sell strictly for cover price as a bonus for our customers. To have to generate and track individual “Certificates of Authenticity” for each and every book (let alone trying to identify potentially hundreds of existing items in our inventory) would make already break-even business even less tenable.
I applaud the desire to go after fraudulent celebrity autographs, but this measure actually impacts hundreds of legitimate small, family-owned book and comic book stores in a significant way. Most small bookstores are under-funded and over-worked, and probably aren’t even aware that they’re under potential financial ruin, for even an innocent mistake. The law says that anyone who sues the bookseller…:
“. . . shall be entitled to recover, in addition to actual damages, a civil penalty in an amount equal to 10 times actual damages, plus court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, interest, and expert witness fees, if applicable, incurred by the consumer in the action. The court, in its discretion, may award additional damages based on the egregiousness of the dealer’s conduct.” (Civil Code, section 1739.7 (g))
Ten times! That seems rather draconian, and I think it could very well lead to professional frivolous lawsuits to shake down legitimate California businesses. I very much think that something must be done immediately to address this Bill; the lowest hanging fruit might be simply to exempt books that are being sold for the printed retail cover price or less. I realize that the bill passed three weeks ago, but that doesn’t change the economic sword that this is going to poise over thousands of bookseller’s heads. Independent booksellers were not dragging their heels on this – I believe that most of my peers have absolutely no idea whatsoever that this law is on the books.
I, myself, only found out about it today! Small stores like mine don’t have the resources to be aware of pending legislation like this, and are utterly reliant on our representatives like yourself to help protect us. And I think we need your protection here.
If there is any other information I can provide to you to help you understand the potential costs to legitimate California small independent bookstores, I stand ready to provide it. Thank you for listening.
Brian Hibbs Owner, Comix Experience firstname.lastname@example.org
Obviously this law could have some very serious unintended consequences. Developing.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.