News & Politics

Court Decision Permits IMDB to List Actresses' Ages

Hollywood actors can be touchy about their ages. We’ve known that for years. It’s why so many actresses from days gone by have birthdays we’re not sure are accurate or not. The fact that Hollywood can be discriminatory based on age, particularly for women’s roles, certainly doesn’t help.

Ostensibly, that was the reason for a California law that sought to block websites like IMDB.com from listing actors’ ages.

However, a federal court listened to the arguments and recognized one very important fact. IMDB has a First Amendment right.

The Hollywood Reporter noted, “A federal judge believes the root of the problem is not age discrimination, but rather sex discrimination. Nevertheless, the law is struck on First Amendment grounds.”

The judge may have a point. After all, they see no problem with casting older actors in whatever role they want, but actresses rarely get the same consideration. However, as the judge noted, it doesn’t matter. Free speech is free speech.

“Even if California had shown that the law was passed after targeted efforts to eliminate discrimination in the entertainment industry had failed, the law is not narrowly tailored,” U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria argued. “For one, the law is underinclusive, in that it bans only one kind of speaker from disseminating age-related information, leaving all other sources of that information untouched. Even looking just at IMDb.com, the law requires IMDb to take down some age-related information — that of the members of its subscription service who request its removal — but not the age-related information of those who don’t subscribe to IMDbPro, or who don’t ask IMDb.com to take their information down.”

While the case and the arguments involved are fairly complex, it’s important to note that the law was ridiculous. For example, IMDB freely lists actresses’ date of birth. Anyone with half a brain — which, admittedly, rules out much of Hollywood — could do some basic math and arrive at an age. All the law apparently did was keep IMDB from doing the math for you.

Whoops.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA COO and general counsel, responded to the ruling by saying:

SAG-AFTRA is extremely disappointed with today’s ruling in IMDb v. Becerra and SAG-AFTRA. The Court unfortunately fails to understand or recognize the massive impact gender and age discrimination has on all working performers. That discrimination is facilitated by IMDb’s insistence on publishing performers’ age information without their consent. The ruling also refuses to recognize the reality of the commercial nature of IMDb’s database publishing operation. Despite sworn testimony submitted by SAG-AFTRA, the Court incorrectly concluded there were no material disputed factual issues, while precluding the parties from acquiring additional evidence or permitting the case to go to trial. SAG-AFTRA will continue to defend this much-needed law by appealing this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Maybe the answer is to clean up your own industry before trying to tell everyone else in the damn country how to live their lives.

Kill the discrimination in your own house and you don’t need to regulate a blasted thing, especially free speech.