LGBTQ Groups Join SAG-AFTRA In Ongoing Legal Battle Against IMDb Over Privacy


Several national LGBTQ advocacy groups have joined SAG-AFTRA in its appeal of a federal court ruling that a union-backed state law prohibiting IMDbPro from publishing actors’ ages was unconstitutional.

The union claimed that publishing the ages of actors contributed to age discrimination in the industry. In joining the case, the LGBTQ groups say that they are “gravely concerned with IMDb’s continued publication of the birth names of transgender performers and people in the entertainment industry without their consent.”

In February 2017, Judge Vince Chhabria granted IMDb an injunction to stop enforcement of AB 1687, which went into effect January 1, 2017. “It’s difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment,” he wrote, adding that the government had not shown how the bill is “necessary” in achieving the goal of preventing age discrimination in Hollywood.

A year later, the judge granted summary judgment in v. Xavier Bacerra.

“Even if California had shown that the law was passed after targeted efforts to eliminate discrimination in the entertainment industry had failed,” he wrote, “the law is not narrowly tailored. For one, the law is underinclusive, in that it bans only one kind of speaker from disseminating age-related information, leaving all other sources of that information untouched. … Even looking just at, the law requires IMDb to take down some age-related information – that of the members of its subscription service who request its removal – but not the age-related information of those who don’t subscribe to IMDbPro, or who don’t ask to take their information down. The defendants have not shown that partially eliminating one source of age-related information will appreciably diminish the amount of age discrimination occurring in the entertainment industry.”

The LGBTQ groups included in today’s endorsement are the National LGBTQ Task Force; GLAAD; the Transgender Law Center; the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund; Transcend Legal, Inc.; and Equality Federation.

“We endorse the position of SAG-AFTRA and its amici in upholding the constitutionality of AB 1687 because IMDb has exhibited a similarly defiant attitude with respect to publishing actors’ and other industry professionals’ ages and birthdates without those individuals’ consent,” the groups said in their legal filing with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Transgender people describe the impact of willful use of their old name as negatively impacting job prospects, causing feelings of dysphoria, and invalidating who they are as individuals,” the groups wrote. “Yet, IMDb continues to publish the birth names of transgender talent without their consent. They do so despite removal requests, complaints, and even lobbying from management and advocacy groups.”

“As with transgender individuals’ birth names, the nonconsensual dissemination of ages and birthdates all too often facilitates and perpetuates discrimination in the entertainment industry,” the LGBTQ groups said. “People in this industry should have control over the decision to publish such information. IMDb’s policies and practices deprive people of that choice and thus encourage unlawful discrimination. For these reasons, we respectfully join SAG-AFTRA and its amici in urging that the District Court’s decision be reversed, and that the constitutionality of AB 1687 be affirmed.”

“This is a case about the human rights of all performers,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “I want to thank these groups for signing on and showcasing how damaging the unregulated publication of performers’ personal data can be. We want to see this law enforced and are taking every step necessary to achieve that goal.”

“Highlighting how IMDb is invading the privacy of transgender performers by publishing their birth names is another facet of this case that we hope will help make it clear to the appellate judges that the harm here is fundamental and compelling, and that the California law is necessary in order to remedy it,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s general counsel and chief operating officer. “The court has so far failed to understand or recognize the massive impact the publication of this personal information can have on the careers and lives of working performers.” Crabtree-Ireland currently serves as a Stonewall Ambassador along with SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White.

Other supporters of SAG-AFTRA in the ongoing legal proceedings include AARP, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, California Labor Federation, L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Berkeley Law Professor Catherine Fisk.

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