In a move to curb age discrimination in Hollywood casting, California has signed into law a bill requiring websites such as IMDb to remove mention of an actor’s age or birthday upon request.
Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1687 on Saturday after it passed both the State Assembly and the State Senate with ease. Effective January 1st, 2017, any online entertainment database that hosts information relevant to hiring (resumés, headshots, etc.) must remove or leave unpublished someone’s age or birthday should a paying subscriber submit a request. IMDb is the most popular and commonly known site that falls under the law’s coverage. Though the law was specifically designed to protect actors and actresses from age discrimination, it also applies to any entertainment industry job.
SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and other actors unions have been lobbying for the legislation since March. “It is time to stop the ageism that permeates Hollywood’s casting process,” wrote Gabrielle Carteris, SAG-AFTRA President, in a The Hollywood Reporter guest column over the summer. “This problem exists for all performers, but most distinctly for women. Performers create characters and often employ illusion to do so. That’s acting.”
Of course, the age and birthdays of stars like Tom Hanks or Helen Mirren are practically matters of public record, but AB 1687 isn’t about them. According to California Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, the point of the law is to protect lesser known actors and actresses going out for smaller roles from being discriminated again.
Opponents of the bill have argued that it violates First Amendment rights, and it may be up for a Constitutional challenge. “This is not a question of preventing salacious rumors,” wrote Internet Association president and CEO Michael Beckerman in a counterpoint to Carteris’ editorial, “rather it is about the right to present basic facts that live in the public domain. Displaying such information isn’t a form of discrimination, and internet companies should not be punished for how people use public data.”
Calderon acknowledged the seeming conflict in a statement to THR, but said the fact that only paid users can make a removal request keeps it on the right side of the Constitution. “Limiting the bill to only subscribers makes it clear that the bill advances an important government interest — that of reducing age discrimination in a manner that is substantially related to that interest and no more extensive than necessary to achieve that interest.”