Monday, December 21, 2015

Bo's bLAWg - Certificates of Authenticity



MJ Bogatin (“Bo”) of Bogatin, Corman & Gold, is an Arts and Entertainment Attorney in San Francisco.  He is also Co-President of California Lawyers for the Arts.  Bo is available to answer some of your questions surrounding the business of Art Licensing. - THANKS BO!



It’s that time of year – the time of year when I am privileged to receive Seasons Greetings from  many of my wonderful artist clients.  And one I received yesterday reminded me of an issue that should be of interest to all of You artists:  Certificates of Authenticity

Often, I receive a gift that is clearly a print, but there is no specific information accompanying it other than the artist’s copyright notice and a note.  As an attorney, seeing that the artist has included a copyright notice on the artwork is good, but as a collector, I am interested to know more about the subject matter of the work and the medium:  lithograph, serigraph, pochoir, monoprint, monotype, etching, woodcut, screenprint, digital print or counterproof?  (Yeah, I Googled “kinds of prints.”  Even so, I DO want to know!)

And, if applicable, for valuation and insurance purposes, I need to know the specifics of the Fine Print Edition.  This is where Certificates of Authenticity come in to play.

There are more kinds of prints than ever before.  Unless the recipient of a gift reproduction is provided information about it, there is no way for them to know how truly special it might be. From time to time we also hear that someone has issued a fraudulent edition of some famous artist’s image, and the market has been flooded with prints that may or may not be authentic, damaging collectors and destroying the market for that artist or her Estate.

In California, this problem was so prevalent that the Legislature decided to do something about it.  They passed a Fine Print Disclosure Law that not only protects “consumers” (buyers), but the value of the entire edition for collectors and artists alike.  In short, Civil Code Section 1740 et seq provides that retailers of Fine Prints and limited edition sculptures and photographs priced at more than $25, unframed, must provide purchasers with basic information about the edition.  This law provides for disclosure in writing of not only the identity of the artist, but the medium, whether the multiple is a limited and if so the number of multiples in the limited edition, the time when the multiple was produced, and if a “plate” is used, what becomes of it.  (i.e. Is the plate destroyed so that a new edition cannot be made from it?)  See:

The consumer remedies in the event a seller does not comply with this law is return of the artwork and a full refund regardless of any claim that “All sales are final.”  If an art dealer in California willfully fails to provide this information, they can be liable for three times the value of the work, and a civil penalty of up to $1,000.  And if the buyer has to sue to enforce these statutory remedies, they will be entitled to recover their attorneys’ fees and costs!

While there may not be exactly comparable statutes in your state, I still strongly recommend the use of Certificates as a way to both inform people about your prints and impress them with your business acumen.  The client who brought me his multiple customized his Certificate and made it a collectible in its own right.  (See above.)  However, the form of the Certificate can be quite simple and straightforward, including the following information, which you can copy and paste:

Compliant with California Civil Code §1744

Title:    _____________________
Artist/Photographer:    _____________________
Signature:    Each print is hand signed.
Release:    [December] 201_
Copyright:    © 201_ ___________________
Description of Edition:    Limited Edition of ____ [11x14] prints plus Artist Proofs.
Print Date:    [December] 201_
Print Size:    [11x14]

A few words about this image:

This is to certify that all information and the statements contained herein are true and correct. I created this fine art multiple from [photographic matter]. [This image is printed on archival paper, and with proper care your artwork should last over 100 years.]
___________________________        ___________________
Artist                        Date

So, make your holiday Limited Edition print gifts even that more desirable by providing a Certificate of Authenticity.  Especially to your attorney! 

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is not intended as legal advice. Because the law is not static, and one situation may differ from the next, we cannot assume responsibility for any actions taken based on information contained herein. Also, be aware that the law may vary from state. Therefore, this website cannot replace the advice of an experienced attorney. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. MJ Bogatin, Bogatin, Corman & Gold,



  1. Thank you so much for this advise. I look forward to reading your other blog posts!

    1. Hi Leonore! Bo is great! I am blessed that he guest posts on my blog. Thank you for stopping by! Happy New Year <3

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