Earlier this month, the IMDb (Internet Movie Database) filed a lawsuit requesting an injunction against the Actor Age Censorship Law, a California law that allows actors to demand that IMDb remove all references to their age from the website. This piece of legislation was passed in late 2016 and was supported by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), which claimed that potential employers were using information about an actor’s age obtained from IMDb when making casting decisions, according to L.A. Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter. The law seeks to remedy this by allowing actors to demand that certain subscription-based websites remove references to their age, which affects IMDb’s subscription-only casting service website IMDb Pro, as well as the free-to-use main website.
IMDb began their legal challenge in IMDb v. Kenealy in late 2016, after the Actor Age Censorship Law was passed but before it took effect on January 1st, 2017. As explained by The Hollywood Reporter, on January 5th IMDb requested a preliminary injunction seeking to prevent California’s attorney general from enforcing the law. The website is arguing that the ability to include an actor’s age as part of their biography is free speech protected by the First Amendment, and as such it would be unconstitutional to prevent IMDb from displaying this information. Conversely, California argues that the Actor Age Censorship Law is necessary to protect actors from age-related discrimination, and are allowed to restrict this information as an actor’s age falls within the category of commercial speech under Central Hudson.
The case is also drawing attention from outside parties, as several California law professors filed an amicus brief supporting IMDb’s free speech argument, and SAG-AFTRA is seeking to be joined as a defendant along with California’s attorney general.
Tyler Bittner is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).