Monday 14 November 2016

IMDb to sue California to overturn law forcing them to remove actors' ages


The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is suing California over a law forcing the website to remove the ages of actors on request, saying it is unconstitutional.

California passed a law in September ruling that “a commercial online entertainment employment service provider” would be required to remove details of the age of any of its subscribers within five days, on the request of the subscriber.

The law was intended to fight age discrimination in the film industry and had been campaigned for by actors’ groups. The president of the union Sag-Aftra wrote in August that actors “face blatant age discrimination every day as websites routinely used for casting talent force birth dates and ages on casting decision-makers without their even realising it”.

However, IMDb’s suit (pdf) claims that the law “does not advance, much less achieve” the goal of reducing age discrimination, and that it violates both the first amendments and commerce clause of the US constitution. IMDb also claims it separately violates federal law “because it imposes liability on IMDb based on factual content that is lawfully posted by its users”.

The website criticises the state of California for passing the law, saying it has “chosen to chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information”.

IMDb says it is being unfairly targeted and that the law does not deal with the main cause of age discrimination.

“Prejudice and bias, not truthful information, are the root causes of discrimination,” the lawsuit says. “This law unfairly targets (which appears to be the only public site impacted by the law) and forces IMDb to suppress factual information from public view. Moreover, the factual information being suppressed from IMDb is available from many other sources.”

The case claims the law is both too broad – as it includes all film professionals, rather than just those who could expect to be the target of age discrimination such as actors – and too narrow, as it fails to impose the same restrictions on the “myriad other sources of the same information”, such as Wikipedia, Google or specialist websites that list the birthdays of famous people.

IMDb also says that subscribers to its paid professional service, IMDb Pro, have been able to edit or remove biographical details about themselves on the site since 2010.

The lawsuit asks the court to “declare that Assembly bill 1687 is unconstitutional and that IMDb cannot be liable for failing to censor factual public information,” and to declare a permanent injunction against its enforcement.

In 2013, IMDb won a case against the actor Junie Hoang, who tried to claim more than $1m from the site after she alleged she had lost out on roles because the site published her real age.



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