Forrest R. Smith III, 48, of Exeter Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 33 months in prison and to pay $120,000 in restitution after getting busted for forging author signatures in books by the likes of Truman Capote, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy, Kurt Vonnengut, Anne Rice, and selling them on eBay. (Examples of Truman Capote signatures seen above from TomFoilo.com.) From the Reading Eagle:
Smith had obtained documents containing authentic signatures of each author and had ink-based stamps made for the signatures, investigators said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark B. Dubnoff has said someone in the book-selling field initially uncovered Smith's scheme and alerted authorities.
Another bookseller noticed that someone was buying first-edition books and a short time later those same books were being put up for sale, but as signed copies of a book whose author was dead, he said.
Over at GOOD, Anne Trubek considers this case in the context of e-books and the "aura" of authenticity in, well, the age of digital reproduction (sorry Walter Benjamin!):
The future of author signatures is uncertain, however; it seems unlikely that the tradition of authors signing books for readers will continue in an e-book future, after all. We have already seen the invention of the LongPen, which Margaret Atwood uses to alleviate the long lines at book signings. With the LongPen, authors can sign their books while lying in bed, and do not need to tromp off to an actual bookstore to be presented copies of their by actual, grubby readers. With this handy new device, "the distance between signing parties becomes irrelevant. LongPen™ transmits an original signature via a secure network--instantly."
But for many, "the distance between the signing parties" is exactly what we want to shrink. What we want from a signed book is the actual living breathing body of the author leaving a trace on our copy. Increasing the distance, as with the LongPen, is a crime of its own--though not one punishable by the courts.