In a recent decision, United States District Court Judge Vince Chhabria issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily suspending AB 1687, a California law requiring certain online entertainment websites to remove ages of Hollywood actors, upon request by those individuals. The law’s stated purpose is to prevent age discrimination in the entertainment industry. IMDb.com, Inc., owned by Amazon, filed suit against the California Attorney General, arguing that AB 1687 inhibits its First Amendment rights (US District Court Case No. 16-cv-06535-VC). In his February 22, 2017 Order Granting Motion For Preliminary Injunction, Judge Chhabria stated that it was “difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment.” Judge Chhabria further indicated that the law, which prevents IMDb “from publishing factual information … on its website for public consumption,” was likely an unlawful restriction of non-commercial speech.
Lobbyists for the law included the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (“SAG-AFTRA”), which has also intervened into IMDb’s lawsuit, to defend the law. SAG-AFTRA argues that age discrimination in Hollywood has long been a problem, and that casting directors frequently rely on internet sites like IMDb Pro, a paid subscription website where actors can upload resumes and other information, when making casting decisions. IMDb Pro and its free sister website, IMDb.com, display a variety of content about Hollywood actors, including their dates of birth and ages. Proponents of AB 1687 argue that preventing the disclosure of this information on these websites will limit its availability, and therefore, reduce the likelihood that age will be considered in hiring decisions. However, Judge Chhabria found that the State of California “presented nothing to suggest” that the law would actually prevent age discrimination in Hollywood. The Court further held that other methods, such as stronger enforcement of existing anti-discrimination laws, would be more effective to combat age discrimination in Hollywood than AB 1687, and would also be less restrictive of United States Constitutional First Amendment rights.
Entities such as First Amendment Scholars and Legal Organizations and The First Amendment Coalition have filed briefs in support of IMDb’s First Amendment argument. With the Court’s ruling that IMDb is “likely to succeed on the merits” of its case, the future of AB 1687, is at the very least, uncertain. At this point, the law remains on hold pending a final determination by the Court on the merits of the lawsuit.