California Enacts Law Requiring IMDb to Remove Actor Ages on Request
"On behalf of everyone in the industry who has struggled with age discrimination, whose opportunities to showcase their talent may have been blocked, I want to thank Gov. Brown and the bill’s author, Assembly Member Ian Calderon," said SAG-AFTRA’s Gabrielle Carteris.
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed legislation that requires certain entertainment sites, such as IMDb, to remove — or not post in the first place — an actor’s age or birthday upon request.
The law, which becomes effective Jan. 1, 2017, applies to entertainment database sites that allow paid subscribers to post résumés, headshots or other information for prospective employers. Only a paying subscriber can make a removal or nonpublication request. Although the legislation may be most critical for actors, it applies to all entertainment job categories.
“Even though it is against both federal and state law, age discrimination persists in the entertainment industry,” Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, said in a statement. “AB 1687 provides the necessary tools to remove age information from online profiles on employment referral websites to help prevent this type of discrimination.”
“Gov. Jerry Brown today stood with thousands of film and television professionals and concerned Californians who urged him to sign AB 1687, a California law that will help prevent age discrimination in film and television casting and hiring,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris.
The union and others lobbied for the legislation, an effort begun under the aegis of then-SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard, who died in March. His successor, Carteris, testified in front of a State Senate committee and, in August, wrote of her support for the law in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter.
“It is time to stop the ageism that permeates Hollywood’s casting process,” wrote Carteris. “This problem exists for all performers, but most distinctly for women. Performers create characters and often employ illusion to do so. That’s acting.”
She added, “Many actors have endured age discrimination of some sort throughout their careers. Those isolated, individual cases have now morphed into the almost-automatic age discrimination made possible by the online casting services. The information is put front and center before those making the decisions about whom to audition and whom to hire.”
The technology community opposed the law, saying it was a violation of free speech.
“We are disappointed that AB 1687 was signed into law today,” said Internet Association spokesman Noah Theran. “We remain concerned with the bill and the precedent it will set of suppressing factual information on the internet.”
Michael Beckerman, the association’s president and CEO, also wrote for THR in August about his opposition to the law.
“Requiring the removal of factually accurate age information across websites suppresses free speech,” wrote Beckerman. “This is not a question of preventing salacious rumors; 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.”
Some sites used by the entertainment industry may not be covered by the new statute, if they aggregate information without providing.
Although the limitation to paid subscribers may leave some sites outside the law’s coverage — possibly including Gracenote’s popular Studio System — an actor who has been observing the process said that’s not a major deficiency.
“The focus of this legislation is on a practical solution to a real-world problem,” said the performer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The Studio System is not presently a major source of this problem. Professional performers most affected by this are very likely to be subscribers to IMDb Pro, and this legislation provides a desperately needed tool to those people.”
The actor added, "It may not be a panacea, but it will provide significant relief to the working actors most impacted by age discrimination. This is relief that could have been voluntarily provided years ago, but which ultimately required the use of the legislative process to achieve. But make no mistake: The impact of this law will be huge."
On another front, some observers have suggested First Amendment concerns, and the new law, like any statute that regulates speech or expression, may be subject to a Constitutional challenge. But Calderon said the limitation to subscribers will help insulate the new law.
“Requiring websites to remove all age information from profiles would seem to run afoul of the First Amendment restrictions on the regulation of commercial speech,” Calderon said in a statement to THR. “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.”
IMDb and Gracenote did not respond to requests for comment.
Calderon added that the law was more for actors and actresses who are not as well-known as big stars.
“While age information for Hollywood’s biggest stars is readily available from other online sources, this bill is aimed at protecting lesser known actors and actresses competing for smaller roles,” Calderon said in the release. “These actors should not be excluded from auditioning simply based on their age.”
“On behalf of everyone in the industry who has struggled with age discrimination, whose opportunities to showcase their talent may have been blocked, I want to thank Gov. Brown and the bill’s author, Assembly Member Ian Calderon, and all the California lawmakers who were instrumental in this effort,” added Carteris.
The union president also cited California Labor Federation President Art Pulaski, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Congressmen Ted Lieu and Brad Sherman, the Teamsters, WGA West, the Association of Talent Agents, the AARP of California and “the thousands of SAG-AFTRA members who sent letters, faxes and emails” in support of the legislation.
The bill passed both houses of the California Legislature overwhelmingly, records indicate.
Sept. 24, 5:25 p.m. Updated with Internet Association spokesman’s comment.
Sept. 24, 7:22 p.m. Updated with Carteris' statement, actor's comment and details of the new law.
Sept. 25, 9:55 a.m. Updated with comment from Calderon re: First Amendment.