AARP Sides With Actors Union, Seeks To Reinstate IMDb Age Censorship Law

Siding with the Screen Actors Guild, the nonprofit AARP is asking a federal appeals court to reinstate a California law that requires IMDb.com to hide actors' ages at their request.

The AARP argues both that the California law marks a legitimate attempt to combat age discrimination in the entertainment industry and that people have the right to keep their ages private.

“The resolution of the issues in this case will have a significant impact on a variety of older people who wish to be considered for, and obtain work, in their chosen profession,” the AARP writes in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted last week to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Alliance of Retired Americans and Communication Workers of America also signed on to the friend-of-the-court brief.

The law (AB 1687) requires providers of “commercial online entertainment employment" services -- a description that applies to Amazon's IMDb.com -- to remove information about paying subscribers' ages upon their request. Supporters of the law say it helps combat illegal age discrimination.

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Last year, IMDb.com sued to invalidate the law on the grounds that the measure violated free speech principles.

U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California sided withIMDb and blocked the state from enforcing the measure, ruling it violates the First Amendment by restricting truthful speech.

The Screen Actors Guild, which backed the bill, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra are now asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate the law. Backing that request, the AARP argues that have have the right to keep their ages to themselves.

“IMDb subscribers, like the general public, have privacy rights that protect them from the publication of their ages and birthdates,” the group writes. “Several courts have recognized employees’ privacy interests in their birthdate and have denied others access to individuals’ personal data.”

The organization argues that other websites that list information about professionals -- like physician-lists.com, which provides information about doctors, or Avvo, which offers information about lawyers -- don't include people's ages.

“The industry is unique in that entertainment employment service providers, like IMDb, publish workers’ ages and birthdates,” the nonprofit writes, adding that the information enables age discrimination.

Last year, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other groups sided with IMDb. "If it is constitutional for the government to suppress IMDb’s public site from reporting age information, there will be virtually no limit to the government’s ability to suppress the reporting of many other truthful facts by many other sources," the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press argued in a friend-of-the-court brief submitted last year.

IMDb is expected to respond to the Screen Actors Guild's appeal by October 22.

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