California rescinds autograph mandate for booksellers

Repeal of the harsh regulation follows PLF’s constitutional challenge

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First Amendment challenge by Bay Area book seller Bill Petrocelli and his renowned store, Book Passage, California has rescinded the state’s onerous “certificate of authenticity” requirement for the sale of autographed books.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.

Bill Petrocelli and Book Passage were represented free of charge by Pacific Legal Foundation. The repeal bill, AB 228, has now been signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“The repeal of these regulations is a major victory for freedom of expression—for authors, store owners, and patrons alike,” said PLF attorney Anastasia Boden. “It means book sellers like Bill can once again host discussions between authors and patrons without confronting mountains of unjustified paperwork and risking ruinous fines.”

The mandate was passed last year in response to concerns expressed by actor Mark Hamill about fake entertainment memorabilia. It expanded the state’s autograph law (which had applied only to sports memorabilia) to cover any signed commodity worth over $5—sweeping in signed books. It required each signed item to come with a certificate of authenticity that included a litany of information, and forced sellers to keep a copy for seven years. Even inadvertent violations could lead to crippling financial sanctions—as much as 10 times any damages.

Book Passage hosts over 800 signings yearly, so its potential liability was staggering. “I’m relieved that common sense prevailed and this bureaucratic nightmare has been repealed for book sellers,” said Bill. “Now we can continue the great tradition of holding author events at book stores without fear of legal liability and draconian penalties.”

The repeal legislation exempts books from the law. With its enactment, PLF’s First Amendment lawsuit will be withdrawn.

“Thankfully, Bill’s challenge and protests from book sellers up and down the state opened lawmakers’ eyes to the threat to free speech,” said Boden. “There’s a lesson here for policymaking in general. Before launching some new government initiative, lawmakers and bureaucrats should always review it with an eye to its impact on small businesses and individual liberty. They should not let a reflexive urge to regulate—to ‘do something’ about some supposed problem—blind them to the practical and constitutional implications of their proposed actions.”

“Pacific Legal Foundation fights for freedom of expression because it is fundamental to the exercise of every liberty,” said PLF President and CEO Steven D. Anderson. “While we prodded lawmakers to rethink and repeal a wrongheaded law, when that doesn’t happen, we are determined to battle through the courts to vindicate fundamental rights.”

The case is Book Passage v. Becerra. More information can be found at:


About Pacific Legal Foundation
PLF litigates nationwide to secure all Americans’ inalienable rights to live responsibly and productively in their pursuit of happiness. PLF combines strategic and principled litigation, communications, and research to achieve landmark court victories enforcing the Constitution’s guarantee of individual liberty.

Get Headlines free  SUBSCRIPTION. Keep us publishing – DONATE

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Raven West


Talk about governmental overreach! It’s hard enough for us authors to book signing appearances as it is, but this bill was crushing.

In this day and age of e-books that can’t be signed, it’s nice to know our pen on paper autograph is worth something to fight for!

The Amazon link to purchase my novel Red Wine for Breakfast is on this page. I’d be happy to sign your copy, no “certificate of authenticity” required!

Raven West – Author Red Wine for Breakfast, First Class Male and Undercover Reunion