May 11, 2017

Defending the Free Speech Rights of California’s Booksellers

By Defending the Free Speech Rights of California’s Booksellers

PLF Senior Attorney Joshua Thompson hosts an in-depth conversation with PLF client and Book Passage bookstore owner Bill Petrocelli and PLF Attorney Anastasia Boden on how California’s newly expanded autograph law which formerly applied only to sports memorabilia — now applies to sellers of any signed commodity worth over $5, including books.

In response to this, PLF and Book Passage have filed a constitutional lawsuit against the onerous new state restrictions that will make it extremely risky, if not impossible, for stores to sell autographed books or host author events, like the more than 700 book signings hosted by Book Passage each year.

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Book Passage v. Becerra

In the wake of a First Amendment challenge by Bay Area book seller Bill Petrocelli and his renowned store, Book Passage, California has rescinded the state’s onerous “certificate of authenticity” requirement for the sale of autographed books. The regulation would have made it extremely risky, if not impossible, for stores to sell signed books or host author events.

Under the former law, sellers of any autographed good worth over $5—including books—were required to provide a Certificate of Authenticity that included details about the transaction and the personal information about buyers and previous owners. Any omission, or failing to maintain the records for seven years, resulted in outrageous fines. Following PLF’s lawsuit, the legislature passed AB 228, which exempts books from the mandates.

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