California governor OKs warrantless searches to prevent piracy

An intellectual property protection bill introduced by Sen. Alex Padilla has been signed by the California governor. Starting in 2012, police in the state will not need a warrant to search disc-copying plants mass-producing copies of movie DVDs and music compact discs.

The bill known as SB 550 was designed to shrink opportunities for the entertainment industry’s intellectual property to be pirated. California law enforcement agencies seized more than 820,000 illegal copies of video and sound recordings last year. Lawmakers believe the seizures may be only a small fraction of what is estimated to be a $3 billion black market business throughout the country.

Police currently require warrants to search entertainment disc replicating factories. The new law will allow high-tech police specialists to save time by skipping the legal procedure. Inspections of the inventory of disc-copying plants will no longer require a court order.

Special teams of law enforcers will search for specific information and check entertainment discs for mandatory identification data. Heavy fines may be imposed on mass disc-production plants that turn out to be violators.

Sen. Padilla’s bill has the full sponsorship of the Recording Industry Association of America. It is viewed by industry officials and lawmakers as an attempt to curb what both believe is the “serious and growing problem” of entertainment disc piracy.

Gov. Jerry Brown simultaneously signed legislation called the Reader Privacy Act. Under the bill, people in California who buy copies of digital books are guaranteed the same privacy rights as those who buy physical books and take out book loans from a library.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “California Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill for some searches without warrants,” Marc Lifsher, Oct. 3, 2011