IMDb Sues The State Of California Over New 'Ageism' Law

from the eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind dept

As was expected, IMDb is suing the state of California over its new “ageism” law. The law has its genesis in actress Junie Hoang’s lawsuit against the website, in which she claimed that the site’s publication of her actual age caused her to be passed over by producers looking for younger women.

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.

Although the law will (theoretically) apply to other database sites, it’s really just a continuation of actress Junie Hoang’s failed legal battle against IMDb. The narrowly-written law only applies to sites with paying subscribers, but it does allow those subscribers to alter facts or remove them completely.

As such, it’s still a potential First Amendment issue. This is why IMDb is seeking to have the law ruled unconstitutional.

“IMDb shares the worthy goal of preventing age discrimination,” writes attorney John C. Hueston in the complaint. “But AB 1687 is an unconstitutional law that does not advance, much less achieve, that goal. To the contrary, rather than passing laws designed to address the root problem of age discrimination, the State of California has chosen to chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information.”

Even though the law supposedly affects other sites, it’s pretty obvious the real target of the legislation is the website now suing the state. From the complaint [PDF]:

IMDb strongly opposes discrimination in all forms, including age discrimination in casting. But prejudice and bias, not truthful information, are the root causes of discrimination. This law unfairly targets IMDb.com (which appears to be the only public site impacted by the law) and forces IMDb to suppress factual information from public view. Moreover, the factual information being suppressed from IMDb is available from many other sources, not least including Wikipedia, Google, Microsoft (Bing), and Apple (Siri). As such, AB 1687 sets a dangerous and unconstitutional precedent for other general purpose websites and news sources, and should be deeply troubling to all who care about free speech.

It’s California’s “right to be forgotten as being as old as you actually are” statute. And it doesn’t even address the actual problem. Making it illegal to post factual information is a terrible idea and one that will ultimately affect the ways facts are handled by data aggregators subject to this law.

But like Hoang’s lawsuit, the law makes no attempt to target those actually engaging in the alleged ageism: movie and television studios. Instead, it targets those who gather information about actors and actresses, as if vanishing away simple facts will change the discriminatory hiring practices engaged in by some of California’s largest companies.

Adding further problems is the law’s attempt to regulate a website that isn’t even located in the state.

Notably, AB 1687 contains no territorial limitations at all. It purports to impose financial penalties on IMDb, a Delaware corporation with its offices in Seattle, if it refuses to censor itself when, for example, a California actor requests the removal of his age from IMDb.com after it is added by an IMDb.com user in Germany.

Making things even more stupid is the Screen Actors Guild’s heavy lobbying for the IMDb-targeting law. A union with the combined power of thousands of actors should be able to take on the studios directly, rather than cozying up to lawmakers to carve out First Amendment protections for their dates of birth. That suggests one of two things: the SAG finds legislators easier to push around, or the SAG doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds it roles. Either way, targeting IMDb does nothing to further the Guild’s supposed battle against ageism.

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Companies: amazon, imdb

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Comments on “IMDb Sues The State Of California Over New 'Ageism' Law”

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49 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Truth is the Ultimate Defense Against Liable

Here’s the problem – IMDB doesn’t do anything to verify the age. They don’t check birth records. They might subscribe to one of those half-assed Big Data background databases, but that’s no good for people using stage names.

So go ahead, let them publish an age, but impose severe mandatory penalties for getting it wrong. Let them avoid those penalties if they make it easy for the performer to exercise control – either no age at all or whatever age the performer wants published.

That should fix the problem – it won’t be worth the price of pulling birth certificates for everybody in their database, so imdb will ‘voluntarily’ choose to give people the control they want.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Truth is the Ultimate Defense Against Liable

  1. while i MIGHT concede it affects an actors ability to get CERTAIN roles (which then begs the question of ACTUAL ageism in hollyweird! ), that applies to most EVERYONE in the job market, NOT just precious snowflake actors…
    2. thus, why actors need special dispensation over EVERYONE ELSE, is not clear…
    3. aren’t they all going to be CGI soon ? ? ?
    i will say one thing about ‘actors’: i PREFER to -generally- see a movie that has ‘unknown’ (at least to me) actors, since their celebutard baggage doesn’t get in the way of the role they are playing…
    there are enough competent actors (a low bar at that), that i don’t seek out a movie BECAUSE so-and-so is starring in it; i seek out movies because of the story, i generally don’t give a shit about who the actors are…
    (oh, except only negatively: IF there are actors -very few i can think of- who are so incompetent or typecast that i will NOT see a movie because they are in it… steven seagal (sp?) comes to mind…)
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Truth is the Ultimate Defense Against Liable

“It is when it negatively impacts their ability to work”

If true, then surely the issue is that casting agents are using IMDB rather than the applicant’s own resume, SAG records or other method of obtaining a factual and verified account? The solution isn’t to attack a 3rd party website for not also being a detective agency.

Also, it should be discussed that the biggest issue IMDB have been attacked for on this issue is getting the age correct – that is, actresses fearing they are being turned down for parts because the accuracy of information meant they couldn’t pretend to be young enough for the casting agent to cast them in a younger role.

As usual, address the real target, don’t place impossible demands on a convenient scapegoat.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Truth is the Ultimate Defense Against Liable

The publishing of the age is not the problem, it’s the discriminatory hiring practices of the casting directors and agents. Deal with that.

Seriously, if it really is the problem that you think it is, go out there and talk to those people. Explain how wrong and hurtful it is and appeal to them to reconsider their position on age.

Anyone who wants to solve a problem needs to identify what it actually is. RE: ageism from employers of any kind, the problem is there, not on websites that publish your age.

IMDBmustWinThisForAllofUs says:

New DCMA variant focused on information, be very afraid!

Her lawyers fought to censor information, on a public figure.

If the actor fulfills their intent, then in reality her lawyers will have created a variant of DCMA take down directed at public information, not created content or derivative works.

This is frightening on so many levels…

Anonymous Coward says:

Let me get this straight. According to IMDB: IMDb strongly opposes discrimination in all forms, including age discrimination in casting. But prejudice and bias, not truthful information, are the root causes of discrimination.

They seriously said that with a straight face? IMDB opposes discrimination yet by posting the age of Junie Hoang, IMDB facilitated in discrimination against this actress for roles she was angling for.

WTF?

Does IMDB even read the bullshit that they are posting or arguing against a law they think is unconstitutional? IMDB is simply going to lose this fight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And this would be why we have a reasonably strict freedom of speech enshrined in the US justice system… Just for bone headed, illogical, and ill conceived responses like this one.

It’s IMdb’s fault because they posted someone’s age???

What utter bullshit.

I’m having a hard time you even WROTE this with a straight face. Did you even think about this bullshit that you wrote before posting it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You miss the point, really badly missed it.

OP is saying that IMDB is being hypocritical. They want to have their cake and eat it too – by saying they oppose discrimination but are then happy to enable it because free speech they are demonstrating by their actions that they are really perfectly fine with discrimination.

If they want to say they are neutral and that shit happens, well that would be coherent. But once they claimed the moral high ground they opened themselves up to criticism for not acting in accordance with their own words. Its not about the law, its about their choices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

IOW, you seem to be saying that IMDb is completely ignorant of one of the entertainment industry’s dirty little secrets…when one, typically a woman, attains a certain age their opportunity for roles becomes considerably diminished. This would be a strange position since IMDb is well versed in what happens within the industry.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So, according to you, IMDB could completely end age discrimination in Hollywood by simply posting every actress’ age as 24?

What utter idiocy. IMDB could not “un-facilitate” ageism by falsifying ages, any more than not publishing the ages would “un-facilitate” ageism.

If they can’t “un-facilitate” then they are not facilitating. Simple as that.

I really wish some people would stop wanting to convict everyone who can possibly be construed as involved…that is, everyone except the person who actually “aimed and pulled the trigger.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m kind of hoping the California secession movement succeeds. The rest of us would be rid, in one swell foop, of some of the whiniest shits in the country, most of the copyright abusers, a solid chunk of illegal aliens, many of our gun-ban desiring morons, basically most of the bad parts of the left.

Now to decide on a red state to get rid of…

kick out the mexicans says:

califonria cant succeed from the usa

the hells angels control the north half

and a war would ensue and it would become a 3rd world country due to the drought which is worse in the south

its kinda like how we in canada know quebec wont leave cause if they do they 100% screw themselves and they all know it.

ONE way or other your all going to have to remove those illegal and if you think Trump was full of crap , look up the GANGLAND video on mexian maffia
and how many it has in southern california

Scote (profile) says:

Re: Trump and torts

“And if Trump packs the court with red, you can kiss your privacy goodbye, sold out to the highest corporate bidder. “

While Trump may seek to spy on people, he’s also a big fan of broad defamation law. I think Trump would support a law that prevents true information about an individual from being disseminated if the subject is against anyone knowing it. Of course, he’s also for defaming people. So, who knows.

Scote (profile) says:

“A union with the combined power of thousands of actors should be able to take on the studios directly, “

Really? Even the multi-billion dollar *tech industry* has problems taking on the economically smaller movie industry. The influence of the MPAA far outstrips its size.

While I disagree with this new, poorly drafted bill, it is not credible to presume that the actor’s union has the power to end ageism in hollywood by mere direct action.

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