Bay Area bookstore chain files lawsuit over state's autograph law

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A popular Bay Area bookstore chain has filed a lawsuit over the state's new restrictions on the sales of signed books.

Assembly Bill 1570, which went into effect this year, expanded the state's autograph law. But booksellers say the bill was written so broadly that they're worried about how it could affect them.

Getting an autograph from your favorite celebrity is always fun, but Bay Area bookstore Book Passage owner Bill Petrocelli is now concerned about author appearances becoming a thing of the past.

"I don't know whether we're subject to the law right now and I don't want to wait to find out if someone will sue us," Petrocelli said.

Attorneys with the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the state on Petrocelli's behalf, claiming California's "Autograph Law" is unconstitutional.

"Anybody who loves books and loves their local bookstore should be concerned," Pacific Legal Foundation's Anastasia Boden said.

As the law stands, any autographed item worth at least $5 must now be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity, as well as a warranty.

Last fall, supporters such as actor Mark Hamill of "Star Wars" fame said, "It's really no fun to contact an 8-year-old and say, you know that $50 you spent on my autograph? It's fake."

The law was intended to crack down on the sale of counterfeit autographed merchandise, but critics say it's so broad that it inadvertently over-regulated small booksellers who are now obligated to keep a paper trail of all signed items, even if the author signs it right in front of the customer.

Some worry publishers could stop making their authors available altogether. "It's just one more sort of hassle or nail in the coffin for these small booksellers who are just trying to get foot traffic into their store," San Francisco resident Tracy Purrington said.

A bill to rectify these concerns is currently being considered by the State Assembly.

Click here to view the full lawsuit that was filed.

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