New California Law Attempts To Fight Hollywood Ageism By Censoring Third-Party Websites

from the way-to-solve-the-problem,-jackasses dept

Actress Junie Hoang may have lost her legal battle against IMDb for revealing her age, but the California Assembly is ensuring she’ll win the war. Hoang sued IMDb for $1 million, claiming the publication of facts without her permission had resulted in her being a victim of Hollywood ageism. IMDb won the lawsuit, but Governor Jerry Brown has just signed a bill into law that will prevent sites like IMDb from publishing actors’ ages.

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed legislation that requires certain entertainment sites, such as IMDb, to remove – or not post in the first place – an actor’s age or birthday upon request.

The law, which becomes effective January 1, applies to database sites that allow paid subscribers to post resumes, headshots or other information for prospective employers. Only a paying subscriber can make a removal or non-publication request. Although the legislation may be most critical for actors, it applies to all entertainment job categories.

Quotes from actors’ guild representatives and “industry leaders” present this as a positive change. Supposedly the removal of this information will result in fewer actors and actresses from being passed over for roles because they’re “too old.” Ageism may be an industry-wide problem but the correct solution would be to change Hollywood culture, not tap dance across the First Amendment.

“We are disappointed that AB 1687 was signed into law today,” said Internet Association spokesman Noah Theran. “We remain concerned with the bill and the precedent it will set of suppressing factual information on the internet.”

Michael Beckerman, the association’s president and CEO, also wrote in August for THR, about his opposition to the law.

“Requiring the removal of factually accurate age information across websites suppresses free speech,” Beckerman wrote. “This is not a question of preventing salacious rumors; rather it is about the right to present basic facts that live in the public domain. Displaying such information isn’t a form of discrimination, and internet companies should not be punished for how people use public data.”

That’s the problem with this law: it shoots the messenger rather than addresses the underlying problem. The government as a whole has passed many laws aimed at reducing discrimination, but in this case, the California assembly decided the onus should be on data aggregators that have absolutely nothing to do with the process of casting films.

It’s unlikely this law will survive a Constitutional challenge, seeing as it prohibits the publication of facts. While any website can voluntarily choose to withhold this information, adding the government into the equation makes it a form of censorship.

The crafters of this law are claiming this speech suppression will benefit the little guy (and girl) the most:

[California Assemblyman Ian] Calderon said the law was more for actors and actresses not as well known as big stars.

“While age information for Hollywood’s biggest stars is readily available from other online sources, this bill is aimed at protecting lesser known actors and actresses competing for smaller roles,” Calderon said in the release. “These actors should not be excluded from auditioning simply based on their age.”

Calderon is correct. Actors should not be excluded simply because of their age. But that’s a problem studios need to solve. And if they can’t and legislators like himself still feel compelled to step in, the law should target discriminatory hiring practices, not IMDb and other sites like it.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Companies: amazon, imdb

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “New California Law Attempts To Fight Hollywood Ageism By Censoring Third-Party Websites”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
38 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "Oscars So White" No More

“Acting Organism 3477”

Is that old thing still alive? It’s not even a 5 digit!
First you give them rights and now these unhappy, odd, composites are allowed to be actors…
The world was so much better when only us happy primes could become president.
Meh, those 10 digits are on my lawn again. To cut this short: I’m happy we switched to the number system. It removed all bias!

Michael (profile) says:

The law, which becomes effective January 1, applies to database sites that allow paid subscribers to post resumes, headshots or other information for prospective employers. Only a paying subscriber can make a removal or non-publication request

So…when the site gets a request from an actor, cancel their subscription, refund their subscription fee, and leave the information up forever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

No, because it’s not illegal.

Seriously; actors get turned down all the time. It’s not because they’re “too old” — it’s because someone younger happens to be a better fit for the role in the caster’s opinion. Maybe the actor is casting for roles that are too young — there are lots of roles out there for older actors. Meryl Streep hasn’t had any problems getting good roles, but she doesn’t attempt to play 20-something people anymore. Hugh Grant has moved on too….

Brian Antoine (profile) says:

Next up, casting directors using IMDB for searches, ignore any actor who’s hid their age, because that’s proof they are old enough to be worried about it.

Next year, new version of the law, age’s can’t be reported at all, years that movies were released have to be removed, etc. After all, if the actor was in a movie that came out in 1980, you can probably figure out their age. 🙂

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Especially if the bio says something like:

“…starred in their first movie at the age of 24 in 1972’s this stupid movie and …”

Or, one of the movies in their filmography itself has as one of its’ user comments or random facts about the movie:

“Filming was suspended for 3 months to allow the star, XYZ, to complete their final exams and graduate with a BA from ZZZZzzzz at the very young age of 19.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Good Luck enforcing

not tap dance across the First Amendment

Ha ha ha… no one if fucking tap dancing across the First Amendment. It has been neatly rolled onto a cardboard cylinder and placed conveniently near a hydro action refuse disposal unit.

I cannot think of anyone whom has NOT had a wipe with it!

But regarding enforcement. How does Californuts have the power to tell a website what they can and cannot post? IMDB will have grounds for suiting the State due to this law and I hope they do!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good Luck enforcing

Forget suing the state, they don’t have any money. Just think once the trade agreements are in place, IMDB can move their registration out of the US, and then sue the whole US over their “investor state dispute”…

I’m sure no tribunals would side with giving lots of money to companies for doing nothing…

Anonymous Coward says:

Um.. yeah.. because it’s not like there isn’t a great big world that exists beyond the borders of California, and oh yeah – an even bigger Internet where “database sites” are hosted outside of said state. Cuz yo know… if a casting director really, REALLY wanted to find someone’s accurate info, I’m sure it’s not too difficult.

When the “anonymous actress” suing IMDB started, it didn’t take the Internet really very long to figure out and narrow down who it was, by process of elimination. And even less time to then determine Huong “Junie” Hoang’s age because somewhere was an old newspaper article from her native Vietnam when she was a teen that gave it away.

Really.. how difficult is it now to figure out someone’s age. Heck nowadays with social media, an errand birthday tweet from a friend is all it takes now.

They need to deal with the discrimination problem itself (which is already illegal in and of itself), and not add yet another stupid law that does absolutely nothing to fix the problem. It just means looking elsewhere for the same info that’s already public.

Sigh… humanity….

Anon says:

Of course

>Um.. yeah.. because it’s not like there isn’t a great big world that exists beyond the borders of California, and oh yeah – an even bigger Internet where “database sites” are hosted outside of said state. Cuz yo know… if a casting director really, REALLY wanted to find someone’s accurate info, I’m sure it’s not too difficult.

basically, they passed a law saying “move your internet business out of state.” Not to worry, there are plenty more businesses in California and none of them at contemplating moving out of state, are they?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Brilliant

1. Studios unfairly discriminate against ‘old’ actors.
2. Site lists age of actor.
3. Actor complains that having their age listed cost them one or more roles in films.
4. Idiot politicians make it a crime to list the age of the actor, completely ignoring the actual problem.

‘Something has been done’ without actually addressing the core problem, politics wins again!

Dave Cortright says:

Getting my anti-SLAPP counter-slapper ready

Any lawsuit that attempts to force anyone from taking down protected speech can be anti-SLAPPed and now they are on the hook for legal fees. I don’t think the people behind this cluster-debacle really thought this through. Here’s what I tweeted last night to a few that voiced support for this bill (here is the bill’s sponsor as the exemplar):

@IanCalderon born October 19, 1985 (age 30) #firstamendment #sosumi #antislapp #legalfees #badpublicity #streisandeffect @sagaftra @techdirt

Anonymous Coward says:

My Internet...

Gov. Brown got in touch with Al Gore to determine the best way to fight ageism. Al told him the same thing that he told the MAFIAA; “Tell the Internet not to display it!”.

Gov. Brown’s took Al’s advice instead of actually going to the studios and prosecuting them for things that they _might_ be doing (eg: ooh, say ageism and hiding money using shell companies so that EVERY movie loses money).

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »