IMDb Can Still List Actors’ Ages After Court Rules California Censorship Law Unconstitutional

Federal judge says law violates First Amendment

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A U.S. District Court judge struck down a California law allowing actors to request that their ages be removed from their IMDb pages, declaring the rule to be unconstitutional.

The law, which was backed by SAG-AFTRA and signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown last year, was meant to mitigate age discrimination in Hollywood, but was challenged in a lawsuit filed by IMDb against SAG-AFTRA and California Attorney General Xavier Bercerra. Today, District Judge Vince Chhabria granted IMDb’s request for summary judgment, saying that the law not only violated the First Amendment, but was not properly designed to tackle the problems it was meant to solve.

“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,” writes the judge. “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, 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 to take their information down.”

Chhabria also wrote that the problem that needs to be addressed isn’t age discrimination, but gender discrimination.

“Movie producers don’t typically refuse to cast an actor as a leading man because he’s too old for the leading woman; it is the prospective leading woman who can’t get the part unless she’s much younger than the leading man,” he wrote. TV networks don’t typically jettison male news anchors because they are perceived as too old; it is the female anchors whose success is often dependent on their youth. This is not so much because the entertainment industry has a problem with older people per se. Rather, it’s a manifestation of the industry’s insistence on objectifying women, overvaluing their looks while devaluing everything else.”

“The defendants barely acknowledge this, much less explain how a law preventing one company from posting age-related information on one website could discourage the entertainment industry from continuing to objectify and devalue women. If the government is going to attempt to restrict speech, it should at least develop a clearer understanding of the problem it’s trying to solve.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.