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.


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  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 26 Sep 2016 @ 10:42am

    "Oscars So White" No More

    Next up: a law that requires IMDB to replace headshots with blank, gray avatars, so actors' race won't be disclosed. Sure cure for racism in Hollywood!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 26 Sep 2016 @ 10:47am

      Re: "Oscars So White" No More

      It should really exclude the names of the actors as well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Jason, 26 Sep 2016 @ 10:58am

        Re: Re: "Oscars So White" No More

        "Starring Acting Unit 3477"

        I'm pretty sure there's a Futurama that covers exactly that situation. (They were talking about a robot, but "Acting Organism 3477" would work too.)

        Why stop there?

        Film Production Studio #12 Presents a Director 540 production...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 12:58pm

          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!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 26 Sep 2016 @ 1:40pm

      Re: "Oscars So White" No More

      Gray? You Racist. What about people of more vivid races?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 26 Sep 2016 @ 10:45am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 10:49am

    If she could prove ageism enough to sue IMDB, shouldn't she be able to prove it sufficiently to sue the people who actually turned her down for a role due to her age?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Sep 2016 @ 11:11am

      Re:

      Right, so when some 40 something actor applies for a role that portrays a pre-teen person, and gets turned down, they should absolutely sue for ageism. Not only that, they should win?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 11:26am

        Re: Re:

        I'm not arguing about whether or not ageism is a thing or whether it should be punished. I'm saying, if it is a thing, and if it should be punished, she's suing the wrong people.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 11:33am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Holly Wood actor = out of touch with reality

          Holly Wood is a whos who of whos who. They are so drunk on their own person that is an extensively corrupt sector of entertainment. There are even Politicians less full of themselves as these guys. Many would fit right in alongside NK's ruler Fat Kim.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 26 Sep 2016 @ 2:10pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Suing the studio that turned her down has a good chance to cause others to avoid her entirely to limit legal problems, whereas suing the site allows her to feel like she's accomplished something without burning any bridges by those that might (be stupid enough to) hire her.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 12:35pm

        Re: Re:

        Yeah that's the problem with ageism in Hollywood. That would be like a woman suing for not casting her as the lead actor, even though the script makes clear the lead actor has to be a man or else the script makes no sense.

        Makeup can only go so far at covering up things like age and gender.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 2:13pm

      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....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brian Antoine, 26 Sep 2016 @ 11:13am

    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. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dvaid, 26 Sep 2016 @ 1:42pm

      Re:

      That's the problem. Your filmography being across 30 years pretty much means you're over 30...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Eldakka (profile), 26 Sep 2016 @ 8:47pm

        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."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 26 Sep 2016 @ 3:56pm

      Re:

      if the major casting bigwigs/companies did NOT have their own private database which had *all* kinds of shit beyond the 'talent's' stupid ages, i would be stupefied...
      (given that it is 'hollywood' we are talking about, i am prepared for stupefication...)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2016 @ 8:02am

      Re:

      Then California will have to legislate harder.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 11:28am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 2:11pm

      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...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 26 Sep 2016 @ 11:49am

    Coming Soon

    It's only a matter of time until some estate sends a "request" (known elsewhere as a demand) for IMDB to remove a dead actor's age.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 12:01pm

    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....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 26 Sep 2016 @ 12:19pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 26 Sep 2016 @ 12:23pm

    Does the joining of the word "internet" to a law magically make the legislators stupider?

    I mean we have CFAA, this law.

    Come on legislators you need to legislate harder.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 1:20pm

    This is censorship. Plain and simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Sep 2016 @ 2:13pm

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Sep 2016 @ 3:26pm

    The subtitle of this bill should be 'Ghetto Girl Three Justice'.
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120107/01461317324/actress-who-wished-to-remain-anonymo us-under-40-is-now-officially-neither.shtml#c697

    She has happily fluffed her resume on IMDB, and it shows a whole bunch of work of hers in post production.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Norahc, 26 Sep 2016 @ 3:29pm

    Ageism

    I guess there are only so many older actors you can cast in an Expendables film

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dave Cortright (profile), 26 Sep 2016 @ 4:54pm

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 6:02pm

    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).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 7:35pm

    Firstly, on behalf of those outside of America: What the fuck? Seriously? It's agsinst the law to state facts like someone's age?

    Secondly, on a more serious note. I wonder how this will impact sites like Wikipedia which are supposed to have verifiable information added.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 9:49pm

      Re:

      Secondly, on a more serious note. I wonder how this will impact sites like Wikipedia which are supposed to have verifiable information added.


      It won't affect Wikipedia. It will only only affect sites where you can pay to subscribe, for one thing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 26 Sep 2016 @ 7:43pm

    What this law is really

    Old actors yell at internet

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2016 @ 8:25pm

    Once again, Hollywood expects the rest of the world to pick up after the messes it created itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dirkmaster (profile), 27 Sep 2016 @ 10:22am

    I'm kinda hoping

    That Amazon just has IMDB go only free, or make the Pro version only available to Prime members. I used to pay for it, but quit during the budget cut of 2009, but would love to get it back for free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2016 @ 2:35pm

    Simple solution: Only allow signups with the actor/actresses date of birth.

    If they won't sign up (which is free), they get removed from IMDB. credit entirely removed from all movies.

    There, happy now? no-one can see the age of....oh I can't find you anywhere!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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