Wouldn't it be better if we could stop the clock of time and
bury "age" with all other unpleasant things? As a
teenager, I couldn't wait to be a sophisticated
twenty-something. Now if I tell people I'm a twenty-something,
they laugh. When did I get old? Is my age really
anyone's business? If I choose to be in a time warp
(holding at 29), why should information on the Internet prove me
Age is a particularly sore subject in Hollywood. On
Sunday, Academy Awards host Jimmy Kimmel noted that "we are
very welcoming to outsiders here in Hollywood. We don't
discriminate against people based on what countries they come from
– we discriminate against them based on their age and
Age discrimination is rampant in the entertainment
industry. The entertainment industry is a youth-driven
business, and being over 35 often limits roles and opportunities
for actors. But what's the big hang-up on age? If
the actor looks and acts the part, why not cast that actor? Imagine
if you are casting a part and your eyes happen to glance over an
actor's DOB and you run the age calculation in your head,
it's unlikely that you will erase that indelible information
from your mind. It will be part of a calculation.
Recognizing that stars are timeless and their ages are
irrelevant and that age discrimination poses a problem, California
passed legislation (known as "AB 1687") last fall
requiring subscription entertainment databases (like the industry
giant IMDb) to remove an actor's age if requested by the
actor. The rationale for the law was that subscribers should
have control over whether age and date of birth are posted on
websites used for employment purposes. Allowing actors
to not divulge this information would help prevent age-based
discriminations for those working in the entertainment
industry.SAG-AFTRA, which represents over 160,000 working
performers, lobbied hard for this law. Their efforts were
joined by California law makers, the Teamsters, the WGA, the
Association of Talent Agents and even AARP, of which I'm a
SAG-AFTRA, which represents over 160,000 working performers,
lobbied hard for this law. Their efforts were joined by
California law makers, the Teamsters, the WGA, the Association of
Talent Agents and even AARP, of which I'm a secret member.
But the legislation had haters. Opponents of the law
contend that the removal of factually accurate age information
suppresses free speech. And these detractors didn't stop
with words; IMDb took it to court. IMDb is Goliath in this
fight. Launched in 1996, this online database (of which
I subscribe) features 3 million movies and TV programs along with 6
million cast and crew members. IMDb claims that 250 million
visitors go the site each month.
A federal judge last week skewered the anti-age discrimination
law with the First Amendment. "[I]t's difficult to
imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment.
The statute prevents IMDb from publishing factual information
(information about the ages of people in the entertainment
industry) on its website for public consumption."
IMDb.com v. Becerra, Case No. 16-cv-06535, slip op at 1
(N.D. Cal. Feb. 22, 2017) (Judge Vince Chhabria, who
was born in 1969). The court preliminary enjoined the
enforcement of the law. This litigation is "too
young" to declare IMDb the victor. I want to see
what the evidence at trial shows. It could be a show
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