SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The owner of a popular independent Bay Area bookstore is suing the California attorney general, claiming that a new state law regulating the sale of autographed books violates his civil rights.
For over four decades, Book Passage has been holding author readings and selling autographed books.
From its locations in the San Francisco Ferry Building, Sausalito and Corte Madera, Book Passage hosts over 700 book-signing events annually.
Under the new law, booksellers must provide a certificate of authenticity for all autographed books. This must include information about the person who signed the book, the identity of witnesses to the book signing, and the identity of the person from whom the bookseller obtained the book, as well as insurance information. The bookseller must then keep these records for seven years or potentially face fines.
The law expands existing regulations to address the issue of counterfeit sports memorabilia, but also applies to books and other collectibles.
Co-owner Bill Petrocelli says the new law violates his constitutional rights. The Oakland native received a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley prior to becoming an author and bookseller.
He actually worked at the California Attorney General’s Office after graduation.
On Thursday, Petrocelli’s lawyer filed a civil rights complaint against Attorney General Xavier Becerra claiming that the autograph law infringes on his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The complaint alleges Book Passage and Petrocelli “are threatened with onerous compliance obligations and potentially ruinous fines if they continue to sell autographed books” as they have for the past four decades.
Petrocelli maintains that not only does the law violate the First Amendment by burdening bookstores’ ability to disseminate books, but that it also violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The complaint alleges that the law “imposes its onerous burdens on booksellers while irrationally and arbitrarily exempting pawn shops and certain online retailers.”
The California Attorney General’s Office told CBS San Francisco that they are reviewing the complaint.
UPDATE: On Oct. 12, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown approved the passage of AB 228, excluding works of fine art, furniture, decorative objects and signed books from the definition of an autographed collectible.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.