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New California Law Toughens Penalties for Device-Based Piracy

A new California bill targets digital piracy through storage devices like flash drives that are often sold by street vendors and at flea markets.

Introduced by Assembly member Raul Bocanegra, AB 2122 makes it a crime for a person who sells, rents or manufactures at least 100 recordings of audio or audiovisual works without conspicuously disclosing the true name and address of the manufacturer as well as the artist, producer, performer or programmer of the contents. The law covers recordings stored on vinyl records, CDs, cassettes, flash drives, memory cards and other media.


The new law is a recognition that illegally sold storage media — namely flash drives and memory cards — can contain vast amounts of recordings. Prior law was based on the number of articles illegally containing audio recordings, and a violation of 100 or more articles was a felony. Under AB 2122, a single article, or storage device, containing the “commercial equivalent” of 100 or more recordings would amount to a felony.

“I am incredibly pleased that Governor Brown has signed Assembly Bill 2122,” said Bocanegra in a statement. “In an era of flash drives and memory sticks, which can store hundreds, if not thousands, of unauthorized audio or visual recordings on a single device, AB 2122 will provide law enforcement with the necessary tools to continue the fight against media piracy.”

AB 2122 was supported by the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, the California Police Chiefs Association and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Governor Brown signed the bill into law Tuesday. It takes effect January 1, 2015.

According to a music industry source, California law needed to be updated to reflect changes in piracy. Flea market vendors have been discovered in California selling memory chips and thumb drives stocked with 1,200 songs or more for as low as $30 each. However, law enforcement has been hesitant to pursue these vendors because they would be subject only to misdemeanor violations.

The state of New York toughened its anti-piracy laws in 2011 to cover pirated music sold on flash drives, memory cards and other storage media.