Sets new felony threshold at 100 units.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law today (Feb. 22) a measure that makes it a felony to possess 100 or more audio recordings when the name of the owner or artist is concealed for some commercial advantage or financial gain. It amends current law the sets the so-called felony threshold at 1,000 units.

"Intellectual property rights and creativity are bedrocks of the California economy," Schwarzenegger said. "This bill makes it easier for authorities to crack down on the rip-off artists who illegally copy and sell music CD's. With this legislation, we're putting the music industry on equal footing with movies, which have had this protection since 1990."

The bill was co-sponsored by Assemblymember Rebecca Cohn (D-Saratoga) and Senator Kevin Murray (D-Culver City). It was approved overwhelmingly in both houses of the California legislature (Senate 29-2, Assembly 74-0) before moving to the governor for signature.

The RIAA and NARM applauded the law as a move to help authorities fight illegal CD trafficking that threatens the jobs of thousands of California writers, producers, musicians, artists and the operation of legitimate retail businesses.

“Every time a pirated CD is sold at a flea market, street-side table or retail outlet, the works of many talented artists, record label employees, writers, technicians, designers and producers are stolen,” said Mitch Bainwol, RIAA chairman/CEO. “This law ensures that thieves threatening the livelihoods of those in the music industry will face much greater risk of being prosecuted and appropriately punished. This law will make thieves think twice about peddling stolen music.”

“Retailers who operate legally shouldn't have to deal with unfair competition from thieves,” said Jim Donio, NARM president. “Independent stores like Dimple Records and major chains like Tower Records -- both headquartered in Sacramento -- and all the other companies who run businesses or have stores in the state of California welcome this important anti-piracy legislation.”

In 2005, more than one million pirated music CDs were seized in California, and more than 1,200 arrests were made related to those seizures, the RIAA reports. More than 85% of all pirate product seized in California is of the Latin genre.