SAG-AFTRA Wants to Become a Defendant in Lawsuit Over Actors' Ages on IMDb

Gabrielle Carteris - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Gabrielle Carteris - Getty - H 2016

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists isn't content to sit on the sidelines as IMDb takes on the state of California over the enforcement of a controversial new law that prohibits the Internet movie hub from displaying an actor's age if the actor doesn't want it posted. On Monday, SAG-AFTRA moved to intervene with a rare request to become a defendant.

 "SAG-AFTRA is in a unique position to defend the constitutionality of this law, because of its expertise concerning the phenomenon of rampant age discrimination in the entertainment industry that gave rise to its involvement as the sponsor of AB 1687 and to the passage of this legislation," states the actors' guild in court papers.

The development comes after AB 1687 went into effect after being signed into law last September by California Gov. Jerry Brown. IMDb sued outgoing California Attorney General Kamala Harris in November, arguing that the law abridges the First Amendment and doesn't address the root causes of age discrimination. On Friday, the Amazon subsidiary pushed for a preliminary injunction, telling the judge that the law "is unconstitutionally over-inclusive because it requires IMDb to censor the factual age-related information of producers, directors, casting agents, and myriad other entertainment professionals, many of whom face no realistic risk of age discrimination from the publication of their ages on IMDb."

With a judge's nod, SAG-AFTRA would be in a more direct position to defend the law and share the discrimination complaints and grievances it has received in advance of lobbying for change. The guild proclaims itself to be an appropriate intervenor, and for precedent, points to the way that a union representing Los Angeles police officers in 2002 interjected itself in a federal lawsuit against the city over allegations of excessive force and how a union representing various churches acted similarly in 2006 in a litigation challenging the reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

SAG-AFTRA, being represented by attorney Douglas Mirell, also submits another concern.

"In the case at bar, the statute added by AB opposed by powerful corporate interests in the technology sector as well as by some civil liberties groups," it says. "As a result, it cannot be presumed that the State of California will defend this statute’s constitutionality with the same force and vigor as it could if SAG-AFTRA, the union representing the interests of this law’s direct beneficiaries, were standing by its side."