You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Judge Blasts California Attorney General’s ‘Abuse of Power’ in IMDb Case

A federal judge on Tuesday accused the California attorney general’s office of abusing its power in its ongoing legal battle with the Internet Movie Database.

IMDb has sued to invalidate a state law that would require the site to remove actors’ ages from their profile pages upon request. The site contends that the law — which is intended to combat age discrimination in the entertainment industry — is a straightforward violation of the First Amendment.

Judge Vince Chhabria has already granted an injunction to block the implementation of the law, known as A.B. 1687. The attorney general’s office subsequently filed a motion for discovery from IMDb. The state wanted to ask IMDb executives questions about how clients use the site, and sought a wide range of documents, including marketing materials, communications with third parties in the case, and records related to lobbying efforts against the law.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Chhabria said the requests were irrelevant to the case, which he said turns on legal analysis rather than any factual dispute. The judge also described the requests as a “disturbing” case of government harassment.

“The government seems to presume that, having failed to present any colorable argument or evidence in support of the notion that its speech restriction is actually necessary to combat age discrimination in the entertainment industry, it may now simply go fishing for a justification by imposing obligations on the party seeking to defend its First Amendment rights,” Chhabria wrote. “Restrict speech first and ask questions later, the government seems to say. This ignores the First Amendment’s heavy presumption against restricting speech of this kind. If there is no reasonable basis for believing a speech restriction is necessary, the government cannot impose one and then hope a justification materializes in discovery.”

The judge was especially blistering in his rebuke of the state’s effort to get information regarding IMDb’s lobbying efforts, and communications between IMDb and the parties that filed amicus briefs. Among the outside parties that have weighed in to defend IMBb are the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the First Amendment Lawyers Association.

Chhabria called those information requests “an outright abuse of power.”

“While that type of information could perhaps have relevance in some other context, it obviously has no relevance to the constitutional question presented in this case,” Chhabria wrote. “And the unsettling irony of seeking this information in a First Amendment case should be obvious.”

SAG-AFTRA sponsored the law, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last year. SAG-AFTRA has intervened in the case to defend the law. The AARP has also weighed in to support the law, arguing that the existence of IMDb thwarts the state’s efforts to combat age discrimination by barring employers from inquiring about a job candidates’ age.

More Biz

  • Doug Davis and Jodie ShihadehVariety Power

    Jodie Shihadeh Named Partner at The Davis Firm

    Jodie Shihadeh has been named Partner at The Davis Firm, PLLC. She joined the firm in 2011 and rose from associate to Managing Attorney and now partner. She graduated from Boston College and received her law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 2011. While still in law school she interned in the Business [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Nickelodeon Alum Keith Dawkins Sets Kidvid Partnership With Believe Media Group

    Former Nickelodeon executive Keith Dawkins has partnered with Believe Media Group to develop children’s programming. Dawkins will partner with Believe under his newly formed Rock Hill Media Ventures, which aims to advise companies in media, entertainment and sports on working with diverse and emerging talent. Dawkins previously spent 17 years at Viacom, most of which [...]

  • CBS Studios Exterior

    CBS Credit Union Manager Pleads Guilty to $40 Million Fraud

    The manager of a credit union for CBS employees pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court on Monday to a $40 million embezzlement scheme. Edward Rostohar, 62, was arrested in March after the scheme began to unravel. According to prosecutors, he admitted to stealing money from the bank for the last 20 years. Rostohar is [...]

  • Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The

    CAA's Packaging Fee Becomes Flashpoint in 'Walking Dead' Litigation

    The issue that is at the heart of the WGA’s present standoff with talent agencies has flared up as a source of tension in the litigation between AMC Networks and Frank Darabont and CAA over profit participation on “The Walking Dead.” The practice of talent agencies receiving packaging fees for helping to assemble the creative [...]

  • Sony Music to Deliver ‘Real Time’

    Sony Music to Deliver ‘Real Time’ Data, Royalty Payments to Artists

    Sony Music today announced two new payment features for its artists — “Real Time Royalties” and “Cash Out” — through its artist portal beginning this fall. 

A memo sent to artists Monday morning and obtained by Variety says  the initiatives will “allow our artists and royalty participants to view and withdraw earnings faster than ever [...]

  • Whitney Houston

    Whitney Houston Estate Plans Hologram Tour, Album, Musical

    In the seven years since Whitney Houston’s death, there has been relatively little of the asset-exploitation that usually follows the passing of a music icon, apart from a smattering of previously unreleased recordings, a pair of harrowing documentaries and a lot of unflattering press. But according to an article in the New York Times, the [...]

  • rocketman-elton-john-costume

    Elton John Biopic 'Rocketman' Taps Lucky Brand Collaboration as Part of Promo Push

    Paramount has set a May 28 release date for its Elton John-inspired clothing collection with retailer Lucky Brand, which celebrates the performer’s iconic style and new biopic, “Rocketman” (see tickets and showtimes here). The limited-edition collaboration arrives in stores three days before the film hits theaters, though it’s available for purchase right now on LuckyBrand.com. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content