Being an actor seems synonymous with giving up any semblance of privacy, but some Hollywood stars are fighting back against having the personal become public. A California state law passed in September 2016 essentially mandates that IMDb.com, a leading purveyor of information on the film industry, must agree to individual requests to remove the ages of actors, directors, and writers. The law was meant to combat ageism in the industry — but now IMDB is fighting back.
In November, IMDb filed a lawsuit in federal court for the Northern District of California challenging the law, claiming it is a violation of free speech rights. According to Reuters, California bill AB 1687 was deemed “unfair because it was carefully tailored to apply only to the Delaware-based IMDb.com Inc., and not other sources of information such as media websites.”
And while IMDb insists that it “shares the worthy goal of preventing age discrimination,” it claims that the law “does not advance, much less achieve, that goal.”
Now, a week after the January 1 deadline to remove actor ages from its site, IMDb is taking things a step further, and has in fact made a court filing to request a preliminary injunction stopping the Attorney General of California from enforcing the law.
“Rather than properly passing laws designed to address the root problem of age discrimination, the state of California has chosen instead to chill free speech and to undermine access to factual information of public interest,” the Amazon subsidiary said in a Thursday court filing. The law “plainly violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and cannot be enforced.”
It’s certainly a salient problem in Hollywood, where ageism is perhaps more pronounced than in any other industry. Women in particular have noted that as they age, their ability to be cast (and as a result, their earnings potential) begins to fall. As Zoe Saldana told The Telegraph in 2014, “By the time you’re 28 you’re expired, you’re playing mommy roles.” And while the simple act of not listing an actor’s age on an online database may not solve the problem, it could begin to shift the conversation in a meaningful direction.
The California Office of the Attorney General has noted that it is currently reviewing IMDb’s motion.
Article originally published in November 2016. Updated on 01-08-2017 by Lulu Chang: Added news of IMDb’s latest court filing seeking an injunction, and correct the year the law was passed, which was incorrectly listed as 2015.