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IMDb, the internet movie database, can tell you virtually every role an actor has played, what projects an actress has in the pipeline, and even your favorite celebrity's height. It can also tell you an actor's age and birthday, at least for now.
A new California law, signed by Governor Brown this September, seeks to deter age discrimination in the entertainment industry by requiring websites like IMDB to remove actors' ages on request. Now, IMDb is suing, alleging that the law violates its First Amendment rights.
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The law, AB 1687, was passed with the backing of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, who argued that directors commonly withhold parts from actors and actresses based solely on their age. According to the legislative digest, AB 1687 will:
prohibit a commercial online entertainment employment service provider that enters into a contractual agreement to provide specified employment services to an individual paid subscriber from publishing information about the subscriber's age in an online profile of the subscriber and would require the provider, within 5 days, to remove from public view in an online profile of the subscriber certain information regarding the subscriber's age on any companion Internet Web site under the provider's control if requested by the subscriber.
In addition to its public database, IMDb also operates IMDbPro, a subscription service that gives nonpublic information to entertainment industry insiders and anyone willing to pay about $20 a month. Members can apply for roles through the service, seek out actors and actresses to cast, or research an actor's background. IMDb already allows Pro users to remove their age and birth date and says that the new law appears solely aimed at their public website, according to the Courthouse News Service.
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"Rather than passing laws designed to address the root problem of age discrimination," IMDb says in its complaint, "the state of California has chosen to chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information."
"The law fictionally presumes that a casting director who hypothetically plans to discriminate on the basis of age will no longer do so if IMDb.com does not post birthdates, despite the fact that this information is readily available through many other sources (including Wikipedia, Google, Bing, and Siri)," according to the suit.
IMDb also alleges that the law violates the Communications Decency Act. Under Section 230 of the CDA, internet service providers are immunized from liability for content posted by users on their websites. But AB 1687, IMDb argues,"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."