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California and IMDB Fight over Publishing Actors’ Ages Online
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Actress Gabrielle Carteris spoke publicly about age discrimination in Hollywood. Photo courtesy of Variety.

Summary: IMDB wants to continue publishing actors’ ages despite a new California law.

For all of us movie buffs, it is sometimes fun to Google “How old is ___” to learn our favorite movie stars’ ages. While this bit of trivia may be a joy for fans, it’s not so great for actors who work in a youth-centric industry. The ageism in Hollywood is especially hard on women who are often given sexualized roles that dry up once they hit a certain age.


Actress Gabrielle Carteris has been outspoken about Hollywood age discrimination, and she stated that she never would have been cast as a teenager in the iconic show Beverly Hills 90210 if producers had known she was actually 29 at the time. She stated that websites like IMDB make it hard for actresses in this day and age to get cast because producers have such each access to learning performers’ ages.

“The [Beverly Hills 90210] producers came to me and said, ‘If we had known your age, you never would have gotten the role,’” Carteris said to CBS News.  “When the first thing that comes up is their age, it’s like a subconscious bias that’s created.”

Almost two decades later, Carteris has used her personal experience to fight for the rights of her fellow actors. She is now the president of the actors union, SAG-AFTRA, and she and the group lobbied for California to make publishing actors’ ages illegal. In September, California Governor Jerry Brown granted the acting guild’s wish and signed a law that required websites to remove actors’ ages upon request.

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While the new law seemed to be a win for actors, popular movie database website IMDB has fought against it. Now California has filed its own opposition to IMDB, stating that this age publication issue is more about contracts than free speech.

After Brown signed the law, IMDB filed a lawsuit in November, wanting an injunction on enforcement. The company stated that many of the people who have profiles on the Amazon subsidiary had “no realistic risk of age discrimination” and that there was no need to censor the “factual age-related information” of “producers, directors, casting agents, and myriad other entertainment professionals.” IMDB is being backed by first amendment groups such as the Wikimedia Foundation and the First Amendment Coalition.

But still, California is not backing down. On Thursday, California deputy attorney general Anthony Hakl filed a brief stating that this was not a censorship issue. Instead, he said that IMDB offers subscribers services through paid platform IMDB Pro that allow them to build and edit their profiles. He said that because subscribers, which includes actors, enter into a contractual relationship with the website that the website is obligated to remove information at their request.

“Simply stated, section 1798.83.5 involves a contract-based nondisclosure rule,” Halk wrote in his brief obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “It is a valid regulation of voluntary commercial contracts, and any incidental effect on speech does not implicate a First Amendment right. State regulation of commercial contracts is unremarkable, and IMDb should not be allowed to shield its commercial contract activity from legitimate commercial regulation simply by linking it with its own free, public information Web site. Finally, even if the law implicates the First Amendment, which it does not, it is nonetheless a lawful regulation of commercial speech. Section 1798.83.5 is a regulation that is no more extensive than necessary to further California’s substantial, indeed compelling, state interest in combatting age discrimination.”

IMDB told CBS News that it would not remove ages while litigation was pending.

SAG-AFTRA told CBS News that this law is not about A-listers whose personal information is widely known. This law is needed to protect working actors from discrimination.

Do you agree with the actors’ guild or IMDB? Let us know in the comments below. 


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