Judge Blocks California Law Prohibiting IMDb From Publishing Actors’ Ages

After nearly two months of refusing to comply with a recently enacted California law that requires it remove information about actors’ ages and birthdays, Internet Movie Database (IMDb) received a bit of reprieve this week when a federal judge granted the company’s motion for an injunction, blocking the state from enforcing the new law.

Federal Judge Vince Chhabria issued a three-page ruling [PDF] Wednesday finding the law, known as AB 1687, unconstitutional.

Chhabria noted in his ruling that the state failed to show how making IMDb take down actors’ ages advanced its goal of curbing age discrimination in Hollywood.

“To be sure, the government has identified a compelling goal – preventing age discrimination in Hollywood,” Chhabria wrote. “But the government has not shown how AB 1687 is ‘necessary’ to advance that goal. In fact, it’s not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all.”

By issuing the injunction, the state will be prevented from enforcing the law until the IMDb lawsuit is settled.

Amazon-owned IMDb sued the state in November over AB 1687, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September. The site claimed that the law violated the First Amendment, arguing that it was unfairly targeted by the law and that the information being removed was widely available outside of IMDb.

In the complaint, IMDb notes that the law “does not prohibit the discriminatory use of information, but instead forces the removal of factual information from the public domain. That ‘enforced silence’ is unquestionably censorship in plain violation of the U.S. Constitution.”

The law doesn’t outright ban IMDb from posting all actors’ ages on the site, instead it aims “to ensure that information obtained on an Internet Web site regarding an individual’s age will not be used in furtherance of employment or age discrimination.”

Specifically, the law forbids any website that provides “employment services” from sharing age information about its users.

While most people use IMDb to find out who the actor in that TV show is and where you’ve seen him before, the site also offers a large employment service tier, IMDbPro, which costs $20/month (or $150/year).

The service allows casting agents and other professionals to make more direct contact with actors, and also gives those actors more control over the information that appears on their profile. That control includes correcting or removing age information from their Pro profiles.

AB 1687 takes things further by prohibiting age-related data of all Pro users from being published publicly on IMDb.

IMDb contended in its motion for a preliminary injunction that AB 1687 is both overly broad — in that it forces the site to remove age-related information of all Pro users, even though many of these people are in non-acting fields where age discrimination is not really a concern — and too narrow — in that the law only seems to apply to IMDb, and not any of the other myriad similar sources of crowdsourced age information for actors.

A spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office tells Courthouse News that the agency is reviewing the ruling. IMDb did not respond to Courthouse News’ request for comment.

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