California Lawmakers Can't Block Publication of Actors' Ages

By George Khoury, Esq. on February 28, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Amid some controversy, the California legislature passed AB 1687, which prohibits websites, like IMDb, from publishing the ages of actors and actresses online. However, a federal judge has temporarily halted this law from going into effect, as a result of a preliminary injunction requested by the website IMDb, which promptly filed a lawsuit to stop this new, rather awkward, law.

The law is intended to help prevent age discrimination in the entertainment industry, but has been, preliminarily, found to be too much of a restriction on the First Amendment rights of the plaintiff, IMDb. The court reasoned that while preventing discrimination is a compelling purpose, the new law simply fails to do so.

First Amendment Protections Apply

The First Amendment not only provides individuals with the freedom of speech, but also provides media organizations with the related constitutional right known as the "freedom of the press." The First Amendment to the constitution explicitly provides that the government cannot make laws that get rid of these rights.

The preliminary injunction is only a temporary order of the court while the case is pending. However, based upon prior statements from the court, it seems likely that the final decision will match the preliminary injunction. This means that the California legislature needs to go back to the drawing board if they want to do something to help actors suffering from age discrimination.

Enforce the Laws Against the Discriminators

The court's short opinion makes it clear that the judge believes that the government and Hollywood should be doing more to enforce the current laws, rather than to blame discrimination on some third party website that provides information to the public and paid subscribers. The opinion essentially cuts to the heart of not only the fact that the law infringes upon important constitutional rights, but it also just doesn't make sense.

Preventing this information from being published by one type of source will not stop this information from being publicly available, and therefore, logically, wouldn't even seem likely to accomplish the stated purpose. If IMDb didn't publish it, then Wikipedia, or another information site, probably would.

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