Letter Clarifying Collectibles Law to Be Submitted to California State Speaker

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Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, author of a new California law that covers collectibles, has finalized a letter clarifying that the law does not apply to general bookstores and author signings. The law goes into effect January 1, 2017.

The letter will be submitted to California State Speaker Anthony Rendon, according to Chang’s office. In addition, Assemblywoman Chang’s office informed Bookselling This Week that it has asked the State of California Office of Legislative Counsel to provide their legal interpretation of the law.

In short, the law requires sellers of signed books and artwork to provide the buyer with a certificate of authenticity (COA) for any item sold for $5 or more. Many booksellers reached out to Chang’s office, concerned that this law would apply to general bookstores and author signing events. Booksellers were worried about the onerous prospect of having to generate a COA for every signed book. However, Chang’s office insists that the law is not meant to apply to general bookstores.

In order to clearly note for the record the intent of the legislation, a number of ABA bookstore members, led by Bill Petrocelli of Book Passage in Corte Madera, urged ABA to ask the Assemblywoman to submit a letter to the state legislature clarifying that the law does not apply to general bookstores. As reported on October 12 in Bookselling This Week, Chang’s office agreed to submit a letter to the legislature that unequivocally states that this law does not apply to general bookstores and author signings. It is important to note that, while the letter helps clarify the intent of the law, it is not legally binding.

This week, Chang finalized the letter, which will be submitted to the legislature when given the go-ahead by speaker Rendon. 

In the letter to the speaker, Chang stresses: “Both the letter and spirit of the law are clear that AB1570 does not apply to booksellers…. Bookstores, both as they are understood generally and many who communicated with my office, are not principally in the business of selling signed collectibles any more than a convenience store. It is true that some booksellers’ inventory include signed merchandise, including books signed by authors during special signing events. However, it is clear, even taking those items into consideration, a bookstore would not meet the bar of being ‘principally’ in the business of selling signed collectibles.”

Chang also noted that the law was vetted by “a number of legislative committees to ensure the definition of dealer does not cast too wide of a legal net.”