IMDb Battles Actions Union Over Age Censorship Law

A California law requiring entertainment industry site IMDb.com to hide actors' ages at their request is unconstitutional, the company argues in new court papers.

“The First Amendment does not permit a wholesale prohibition of truthful speech (in this case, age information) in order to prevent its misuse by others,” Amazon's IMDb.com writes in legal papers submitted Wednesday to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The law (AB 1687) requires providers of “commercial online entertainment employment" services -- a description that appears to apply only to Amazon's IMDb.com -- to remove information about paying subscribers' ages upon their request. Supporters of the law -- including the union Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists -- say the measure helps combat illegal age discrimination in Hollywood.

But IMDb.com, which sued to invalidate the law, argues that it violates the First Amendment by requiring the removal of information.

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

The California Attorney General and SAG-AFTRA recently asked the 9th Circuit to reverse Chhabria's ruling and reinstate the law. They argue that even though the measure restricts speech, it's “narrowly tailored to serve a compelling public interest,” and therefore is Constitutional.  

But IMDb counters in its new papers that the law is not “narrowly tailored” for several reasons, including that information about actors' ages remains available on other websites and databases.

“AB 1687 does nothing to address the myriad other sources of age information, including Wikipedia, Google, Facebook fan pages, entertainment magazines, Twitter, and newspapers, which are widely and readily accessible as alternative sources of age information,” IMDb writes. “It is nonsensical to believe ... that a casting director intent on discriminating would simply stop trying if the information were not available on IMDb.com.”

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