What’s My Age Again?

By: Elle Alfaro

Popular online entertainment database, IMDb, claims newly enacted California Assembly Bill No. 1687 violates the First Amendment.[1] Assembly Bill No. 1687 (hereinafter “AB 1687”) passed by an overwhelming majority in both houses of the California Legislature last year before being approved by Governor Jerry Brown this past September.[2] The bill officially took effect on January 1, 2017.[3]

In part, the bill “prohibit[s] a commercial online entertainment employment service provider, that enters into a contractual agreement to provide specified employment services to an individual paid subscriber, from publishing information about the subscriber’s age.”[4] Meaning that if a paying subscriber makes a request for the removal or nonpublication of their age on an entertainment database that they pay to post resumes, headshots, or other information for prospective employers, the entertainment database must comply with their request.[5] As a result of the bill’s enactment, IMDb made a motion for a preliminary injunction in order to bar the law’s enforcement.[6]

IMDb claims that it is being unfairly singled out by AB 1687 and that they would suffer irreparable constitutional harm unless the Attorney General is stopped from implementing this law.[7] Supporting IMDb’s contentions Floyd Abrams, a distinguished First Amendment lawyer, was quoted saying, “Birth dates are facts. It’s hard to see how the government, consistent with the First Amendment, can bar or punish their disclosure.”[8] However, due to the narrow tailoring of the bill, California Attorney General Kathleen Kenealy (hereinafter “AG Kenealy”) believes it will survive the Constitutional challenge.[9] Specifically, since the bill is limited only to subscribers, AG Kenealy is confident the court will agree that the bill clearly goes to the important government interest of reducing age discrimination, and that this bill is substantially related to that goal.[10] Regarding IMDb in particular, AG Kenealy argues that the reason even the public portion of this electronic database is impacted is due to what has been coined IMDb’s “split personality.”[11]

IMDb has two major features: IMDb.com and IMDbPro.[12] IMDb.com contains filmography data while IMDbPro is specifically designed for entertainment industry professionals.[13] There aspiring actors, actors, and other individuals in the entertainment industry can: (1) showcase their talent; (2) access contact and representation details; (3) view job listings; and (4) apply for roles.[14] AG Kenealy argues that it would be fundamentally unfair for IMDb to be able to post age information on their public site if a subscriber requested they remove that information from the subscribed site.[15]

Since the law came into effect, over 2,300 people have requested that their age information be removed from IMDb.[16] The Screen Actors Guild President, Gabrielle Carteris, expressed that this bill is a positive step towards preventing age discrimination in casting and hiring throughout the entertainment industry.[17] Although the age information of Hollywood’s biggest stars will still available through multiple media and online sources, lesser known actors are likely to be protected from age exposure and therefore, their career opportunities will be less impacted by this factor.[18] Proceedings continue in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and is set for a hearing in the upcoming weeks.[19]

[1] Kat Greene, IMDb Files Suit Against Calif. AG Over Privacy Bill, Law360 (Nov. 10, 2016),

https://0-www.law360.com.libweb.hofstra.edu/employment/articles/883218/calif-ag-says-actor-age-law-no-1st-amendment-threat.

[2] Ryan Parker & Jonathan Handel, California Enacts Law Requiring IMDb to Remove Actor Ages on Request, The Hollywood Rep. (Sept. 24, 2016), http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/california-enacts-law-requiring-imdb-932330.

[3] Greene, supra note 1.

[4] Assemb. B. 1687, 2016-2017, ch. 555, 2017 Cal. Stat. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB1687.

[5] Parker & Handel, supra note 2.

[6] Greene, supra note 1.

[7] Greene, supra note 1.

[8] Jonathan Handel, New California IMDb Age Law Probably Unconstitutional, Experts Say, The Hollywood Rep. (Sept. 27, 2016) http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/new-california-imdb-age-law-932808.

[9] Parker & Handel, supra note 2.

[10] Parker & Handel, supra note 2.

[11] Greene, supra note 1.

[12] IMDb, http://www.imdb.com (last visited Jan. 22, 2017).

[13] See id.

[14] Id.

[15] Greene, supra note 1.

[16] Greene, supra note 1.

[17] Parker & Handel, supra note 2.

[18] Parker & Handel, supra note 2.

[19] Greene, supra note 1.

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