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Actors' Ages May Not Be Forcibly Excluded From Entertainment Websites

In an effort to combat ageism in Hollywood, California passed a law that required “commercial online entertainment service providers” to remove ages upon request. The law applied only to sites that posted resumes, headshots, contacts and other such information. IMDB (Internet Movie Database) is one such website and it sued the state over the law. The public may access IMDB for general entertainment industry information and the website sells subscriptions to industry professionals.

In the lawsuit, Amazon owned-IMDB claimed that the law was unconstitutional because it “attempts to combat age discrimination in casting through content-based censorship.” The federal district court judge considering the case called the law “clearly unconstitutional” because it “singles out specific non-commercial content” for differential treatment. The law banned one type of speaker from disseminating age-related information, irrespective of whether the individual was protected by age discrimination laws. Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), a union representing actors, fought to uphold the law. The judge asserted that even if the state and the union could prove that the display of ages on the website was tied to discrimination, the law still could not meet the required justification for a content-based restriction on speech. “Regulation of speech must be a last resort,” according to the judge’s decision.

IMDB was granted summary judgment. California was permanently enjoined from enforcing the law. SAG-AFTRA has indicated its intent to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.