VICTORY! CA “Autograph Law” Replaced, Protecting Comics Retailers & Artists

CBLDFlogoCBLDF cheers the passage of California Assembly Bill 228, a new law that amends the state’s flawed “autograph law” passed in 2016. The new law incorporates feedback from CBLDF and other advocacy groups in a way that offers protection for comic book stores, vendors, and artists exhibiting at conventions in the state.

“AB 228’s passage is a victory for comic book businesses and artists in California,” says CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein, who spearheaded the Fund’s efforts on this case. “This new bill provides meaningful protections for expressive materials and removes many ambiguities that could have harmed brick and mortar stores and convention exhibitors in California. We applaud Assemblymember Todd Gloria’s efforts to push this important bill through, and Governor Brown for signing it into law.

Assembly Bill 228 amends AB 1570, which would have required a certificate of authenticity for any autographed item sold for $5 or more, including books; overly burdensome record-keeping systems; and the installation of signage about autographed items. AB 228 provides a specific exemption for booksellers, defining “‘autographed collectible’ to mean an autographed sports or entertainment media item, as specified, sold or offered for sale by a dealer to a consumer for $50 or more, bearing the signature of a particular person that increases the sale value of the item over that of a comparable item without the actual signature.” AB 228 specifically says that “Signed books, manuscripts, and correspondence, as well as ephemera not related to sports or entertainment media,” are not considered autographed collectibles, which means they are not regulated by the law.

CBLDF submitted comments on AB 228 in an effort to fix the issues that arose with AB 1570. AB 1570 was passed in late 2016 to expand the regulation of the sale of autographed collectibles. AB 1570 was ostensibly passed to protect collectors of Star Wars memorabilia (Mark Hamill was a noted supporter of the bill) and similar items, but it put an undue burden on comics retailers and bookstores that hosted in-store author events and signings. It also raised significant privacy concerns due to a requirement that certificates of authenticity include address information for third party sellers who sold their signed items through dealers and auction houses.

CBLDF issued an advisory over AB 1570 shortly after it was made law. AB 1570 was soundly condemned by booksellers around the state, with at least one independent chain filing a lawsuit challenging the bill. Assemblymember Ling Ling Chang, who proposed AB 1570, issued a clarifying statement that the bill should exempt bookstores, but such clarifications are not legally binding (and Chang herself no longer holds a seat in the assembly, making it even more tenuous). 

AB 228 was proposed by Assemblymember Todd Gloria in order to specifically narrow the law’s target to “those industries with a proven history of fraud” (for example, Star Wars memorabilia). In addition to exempting booksellers, it also protects the privacy of third party sellers. Finally, AB 228 includes an urgency statute, which means it takes effect immediately to alleviate the burdens on comics retailers and booksellers.

The full text of AB 228 can be read here. The bill is a huge improvement over AB 1570, but AB 228 may impact retailers whose business isn’t limited to only comics and books. If you have any specific questions about how the bill may impact your comic shop, we recommend that you contact your legal counsel for guidance.

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