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New York Times Spouts FUD About California’s New Memorabilia Law

The NYTimes has finally caught up with the two-month-old story about California’s new law concerning autographed memorabilia, and in spite of the multiple opinions that the law will not impact authors or bookstores, the paper of record is nonetheless convinced that the sky is falling.

The private act of reading is about to get a lot more public in California.

A new law going into effect next month mandates that anyone selling a signed book for more than $5 must vouch for the autograph’s authenticity. That includes, among other things, identifying the previous owner.

“If you visit my bookstore to trade in that copy of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ you picked up at a book signing, I’ll need to take down your name and address and then provide it to whoever happens to buy the book from me,” said Scott Brown, who runs Eureka Books in Eureka.

But some booksellers worry that is not true. If a bookseller does not vouch for a signed book in the form of a “certificate of authenticity,” he is liable for a civil penalty equal to 10 times actual damages, plus court costs and other charges.

When I first read this story I was going to give it a pass because it does cite the law’s creator, former Calif. State Representative Ling Ling Chang, and her explanation that the law only applies to dealers (that citation is in the un-excerpted part of the article).

But that one point in the piece’s favor is outweighed by the FUD which is spouted both before and after.

The law does not say, for example, that "anyone selling a signed book for more than $5 must vouch for the autograph’s authenticity".

That claim is misleading and inaccurate almost to the point of being a lie.

As has been previously reported, this law was written so that it only applied to "dealers", a group which was defined by the law as being "principally in the business of selling or offering for sale collectibles".

The law’s definition of dealer specifically excludes the person who signed the memorabilia, so almost no authors will be impacted.

And since the majority of bookstores are not "principally in the business of selling or offering for sale collectibles", this law does not apply to them, either.

In the absence of a contrary legal opinion, to claim otherwise is to engage in FUD.


image by SGPhotography77


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