smuggle cell phones in to inmates, as well as his more recent effort to stop people from smoking in their own homes. Yesterday, however, the LA Times reported on the latest bill Padilla is pushing, and we're sad to say that it's less of a silly crusade and more in line with what we usually expect from California politicians: trampling constitutional rights to advance the interests of a lobby that supports business in their districts.
In this case, the subject is the Recording Industry Association of America's long war against CD and DVD piracy. As you might guess, they've applied a great deal of pressure in that time to get legislators to send the power of the state after disc producers. Well, they've definitely got Padilla on their side now. Padilla's SB 550 would allow warrantless searches of companies that press copies of CDs or DVDs, to ensure that discs bear legally required identification marks. The fact that the bill would seem to clearly violate the 4th Amendment's prohibition against searches without probable cause doesn't seem to have bothered either Padilla or the two Senate committees that have approved it. The bill has one more committee hurdle to clear before it goes to the full Senate, which could happen next week.
Where do we start with this nonsense? The 4th Amendment exists precisely to prevent police from arbitrarily raiding private property, and SB 550 seems expressly designed to encourage arbitrary police raids at private businesses. But even setting this aside, music piracy is a victimless crime, and if drug prohibition has taught us anything, it's that giving police wide discretion to prosecute such crimes opens the door to terrible abuses of authority. And finally, the Times article seems to suggest that piracy is behind collapsing CD sales and DVD rentals and purchases, and clearly the RIAA and Padilla are acting on this presumption. But does anyone really believe that? On-demand video from Amazon, Netflix, and cable providers has probably done more to damage the DVD market than any amount of piracy, just as iTunes and other online music stores have destroyed the CD market. We often leave our DVD player unplugged for weeks at a time, and we no longer own a CD player. So cracking down on disc replicators is unlikely to save the RIAA's clients, no matter how aggressive the police get.