UPDATED, 3:48 PM: 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 actors union and the State of California had appealed a 2018 U.S. District Court ruling against the legislation.
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“We’re very disappointed by the decision, but it changes nothing about SAG-AFTRA’s commitment to change IMDb’s wrongful and abusive conduct,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement today. “Neither I nor our members will stop speaking out until this outrageous violation of privacy used to facilitate discriminatory hiring ends.”
PREVIOUSLY, February 20, 2018: A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that the State of California’s SAG-AFTRA-backed law making it illegal for the entertainment news site IMDbPro to publish actors’ ages is unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.
A year ago this week, 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 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.
Today, in granting summary judgment in IMDb.com v. Xavier Bacerra (read it here), Chhabria wrote: “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.
“SAG-AFTRA is extremely disappointed with today’s ruling in IMDb v. Becerra and SAG-AFTRA,” the union said in a statement today. “The Court unfortunately fails to understand or recognize the massive impact gender and age discrimination has on all working performers. That discrimination is facilitated by IMDb’s insistence on publishing performers’ age information without their consent. The ruling also refuses to recognize the reality of the commercial nature of IMDb’s database publishing operation. Despite sworn testimony submitted by SAG-AFTRA, the Court incorrectly concluded there were no material disputed factual issues, while precluding the parties from acquiring additional evidence or permitting the case to go to trial. SAG-AFTRA will continue to defend this much-needed law by appealing this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
AB 1687 was narrowly crafted to apply only to “commercial online entertainment employment providers” that charge a “subscribers” fee, as does IMDbPro. Online publications such as Deadline Hollywood – which can be viewed for free – are not subject to the law.
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