Siding with Amazon's IMDb.com, a judge has blocked a new California law that requires the service to delete actors' ages at their request.
Lawmakers passed the measure, AB 1687, in hopes of combatting age discrimination against actors. The law requires providers of “commercial online entertainment employment" services -- a description that appears to apply only to IMDb.com -- to remove information about paying subscribers' ages at their request.
IMDb sought an injunction against the measure on the grounds that it violates the company's free speech rights. Judge Vince Chhabria granted that request late Wednesday.
"It's difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment," Chhabria wrote in a three-page order. "The statute prevents IMDb from publishing factual information (information about the ages of people in the entertainment industry) on its website for public consumption. This is a restriction of non-commercial speech on the basis of content."
Chhabria added that the government wasn't able to show how the law will prevent age discrimination. "It's not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all," he wrote. "And even if restricting publication on this one website could confer some marginal anti-discrimination benefit, there are likely more direct, more effective, and less speech-restrictive ways of achieving the same end."
The Screen Actors Guild backed the law, while tech companies and the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation opposed it.
The measure apparently was spurred by a dispute between IMDb.com and actress Junie Hoang, who alleged that Amazon violated her privacy by accessing credit card data to discover that she was 40 years old, and appended that information to her profile. Hoang, who had a professional profile on IMDb, said that she looked younger than 40, but could no longer get as much work as she had in the past because casting agents and producers -- who want to hire younger people -- had learned her true age.
Hoang only sued after she unsuccessfully tried to convince IMDb to take down all information about her age. A jury ruled against Hoang, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently refused to reinstate her lawsuit.