IMDb Sues to Invalidate California's Actor Age Censorship Law

IMDB - Getty - H - 2016
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IMDb is suing California Attorney General Kamala Harris to protect its right to post actors' ages on their profiles.

A complaint filed Thursday in California federal court aims to overturn Assembly Bill 1687, which requires to remove the ages or birth dates of public figures in the entertainment industry on its site upon request.

The law was passed in September as an effort to mitigate age discrimination in Hollywood and has been widely criticized as unconstitutional — a point IMDb emphasizes in its suit.

"IMDb shares the worthy goal of preventing age discrimination," writes attorney John C. Hueston in the complaint. "But AB 1687 is an unconstitutional law that does not advance, much less achieve, that goal. To the contrary, rather than passing laws designed to address the root problem of age discrimination, the State of California has chosen to chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information."

The site argues that hundreds of millions of people worldwide access its database of Hollywood profiles to access both professional and biographical information, which is largely provided by IMDb users. Hueston says the site is happy to remove incorrect information, but asking it to do this is too much.

"IMDb routinely and gladly updates information on in order to correct verified inaccuracies," writes Hueston. "But it has always been IMDb’s policy not to alter or delete any accurate factual information on the public website. Being compelled to do so not only violates basic free speech principles, but undermines the accuracy and reliability of the database on which millions of users rely."

The site also argues that its IMDbPro membership service gives subscribers "enhanced control" over their profiles and allows them to remove their ages or birthdays — and the site's casting service is only available to IMDbPro subscribers.

"IMDb has empowered IMDbPro subscribers to remove their age information from IMDbPro if they are concerned that such information might affect casting decisions," writes Hueston.

While IMDb argues its site is the only target of the law, it says AB 1687 is a threat to free speech and should be a warning to others.

"AB 1687 does not merely violate the First Amendment rights of IMDb and its hundreds of millions of users and contributors," writes Hueston. "The statute also violates the Commerce Clause because California is attempting to police the internet far beyond the state’s own borders. And the statute separately violates federal law because it imposes liability on IMDb based on factual content that is lawfully posted by its users."

IMDb is asking the court to declare the bill unconstitutional and unenforceable and enter a permanent injunction banning the state and its agencies from enforcing it. 

Harris' office has not yet responded to a request for comment.