Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Federal Judge Enjoins California AB1687 Prohibiting Publication of Entertainers' Ages
In a brief Order in IMBD v. Becerra, federal district judge Vince Chhabria enjoined California AB 1687, added as §1798.83.5, stating that "it's difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment."
The statute provides that a commercial online entertainment employment service provider, such as IMBD,
that enters into a contractual agreement to provide employment services to an individual for a subscription payment shall not, upon request by the subscriber, do either of the following:(1) Publish or make public the subscriber’s date of birth or age information in an online profile of the subscriber.(2) Share the subscriber’s date of birth or age information with any Internet Web sites for the purpose of publication.
The purpose stated in the statute is to "ensure that information obtained on an Internet Web site regarding an individual’s age will not be used in furtherance of employment or age discrimination."
Judge Chhabria held that the statute which prohibits "IMDb from publishing factual information (information about the ages of people in the entertainment industry) on its website for public consumption" is clearly a content regulation. Thus, "the burden is on the government to show that the restriction is "actually necessary" to serve a compelling government interest."
To be sure, the government has identified a compelling goal – preventing age discrimination in Hollywood. But the government has not shown how AB 1687 is "necessary" to advance that goal. In fact, it's not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all. And even if restricting publication on this one website could confer some marginal antidiscrimination benefit, there are likely more direct, more effective, and less speech-restrictive ways of achieving the same end. For example, although the government asserts generically that age discrimination continues in Hollywood despite the long-time presence of antidiscrimination laws, the government fails to explain why more vigorous enforcement of those laws would not be at least as effective at combatting age discrimination as removing birthdates from a single website. Because the government has presented nothing to suggest that AB 1687 would actually combat age discrimination (much less that it's necessary to combat age discrimination), there is an exceedingly strong likelihood that IMDb will prevail in this lawsuit.
In sum, the judge rules that age discrimination in Hollywood may be a problem, but governmental efforts to conceal information about actors' ages is not the solution.