Actors Union Presses To Revive California Age Censorship Law

A California law requiring entertainment industry site IMDb.com to mask actors' ages marks a valid attempt to combat discrimination in Hollywood, the actors union says in new court papers.

“There is unrefuted evidence ... that age discrimination in the industry would be reduced if IMDB did not publish age-related information,” the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists argues in legal papers filed last week with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The union is pressing the court to reinstate California law AB 1687, which 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.

Last year, IMDb.com sued to invalidate the law, arguing that it violates the First Amendment by suppressing truthful 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.

The California Attorney General and SAG-AFTRA recently asked the 9th Circuit to reverse Chhabria's ruling and reinstate the law. The nonprofit organization AARP supports that request, arguing that actors have the right to keep their ages private.

IMDb, backed by groups including The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, counters that it's unconstitutional to censor truthful speech -- even if the goal is to prevent illegal discrimination. The Reporters Committee argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that the law could pave the way for other measures that suppress “the reporting of truthful facts.”

The actors' union takes aim at that contention in its newest papers, writing that IMDb.com and its supporters “seek to obfuscate the reality of AB 1687 by hyperbolically asserting that, if allowed to stand, it will be doomsday for the First Amendment.”

The union goes on to call that argument “preposterous.”

“There are many laws that regulate and restrict the publication of truthful information -- both private information (including ages and birthdates) as well as commercial information,” SAG-AFTRA writes. The group adds that California already restricts disclosure of social security numbers or medical records.

“Requiring IMDB to honor its paid subscribers’ requests to remove age-related information will significantly deter the circumvention of California’s prohibition upon direct or indirect inquiries into job applicants’ ages,” the actors union writes. “AB 1687 precisely targets the modern-day hiring hall for the entertainment industry in which IMDB is the self-proclaimed, unparalleled, go-to source.”

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