The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today sided with a lower court’s ruling that a California law barring websites like IMDbPro from disclosing actors’ ages is unconstitutional. Read details of the case below.
Sponsored by SAG-AFTRA, AB 1687 requires subscription-based entertainment casting/hiring databases to remove paid subscribers’ date of birth from its websites upon request.
The state and the actors union were appealing the trial court’s ruling, arguing that AB 1687 merely regulated a contractual relationship between IMDbPro and its subscribers and was not the kind of speech the First Amendment affords its greatest protections. SAG-AFTRA, which was the driving force behind the law’s attempts to address ageism in the film and TV industry, called the appellate court’s ruling “disappointing.”
“We’re very disappointed by the decision, but it changes nothing about SAG-AFTRA’s commitment to change IMDb’s wrongful and abusive conduct,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Neither I nor our members will stop speaking out until this outrageous violation of privacy used to facilitate discriminatory hiring ends.”
“The Court’s conclusion that this law wouldn’t have a major impact on age discrimination in the entertainment industry is simply ill-informed,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s said chief operating officer and general counsel. “It highlights why it was so wrong for the trial court judge to deny us the opportunity to discover and present evidence that we know would have conclusively proved that point. Although no decision has been made about possible further appeals, SAG-AFTRA and our members will continue to seek out creative solutions to IMDb’s recalcitrance.”
About six weeks after the law took effect, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria granted IMDb an injunction to stop it enforcement. “It’s difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment,” he wrote at the time, 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, in February 2018, Chhabria ruled that AB 1687 was unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. In granting summary judgment in IMDb.com v. Xavier Bacerra (read it here), Chhabria wrote at the time: “Even if California had shown that the law was passed after targeted efforts to eliminate discrimination in the entertainment industry had failed, 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 IMDb.com, 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 IMDb.com 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.”
IMDb is a subsidiary of Amazon, founded and run by Jeff Bezos.