SAG-AFTRA and the state of California have lost an appeal on a court’s ruling that invalidated legislation requiring subscription entertainment databases, like IMDbPro, to remove an actor’s age, if requested by the actor.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the decision Friday, upholding a 2018 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria that found the 2016 legislation, Assembly Bill 1687, was “clearly unconstitutional.” AB 1687 requires subscription-based entertainment casting/hiring databases, such as Amazon-owned IMDbPro, to remove paid subscribers’ date-of-birth information from its websites if the actors asks them to do so.
The appeals court rejected defendants’ argument that the statute merely regulated contractual obligations between IMDb and subscribers to IMDbPro and found that the statute reaches far beyond the terms of any subscriber agreement. The ruling, written by Circuit Judge Bridget S. Bade, also asserted that the provisions of AB 1687 were overly broad.
“Although the panel agreed with the district court that reducing incidents of age discrimination is a compelling government interest, the panel held that the statute was neither the least restrictive means to accomplish that goal, nor narrowly tailored,” she added.
Bade noted that content in the IMDB profiles is not commercial speech, and does not facilitate illegal conduct.
“Here, the State has not explored, or even considered, a less restrictive means to combat age discrimination in the entertainment industry before resorting to the drastic step of restricting speech,” said Bade. “Because the State ‘has various other laws at its disposal that would allow it to achieve its stated interests while burdening little or no speech,’ it fails to show that the law is the least restrictive means to protect its compelling interest. That failure alone dooms AB 1687.”
The State of California and SAG-AFTRA had appealed the trial court’s ruling, arguing that AB 1687 “merely regulated a contractual relationship” between IMDbPro and its subscribers and was not the kind of speech the First Amendment affords its greatest protections. SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris blasted the ruling Friday.
“We’re very disappointed by the decision, but it changes nothing about SAG-AFTRA’s commitment to change IMDb’s wrongful and abusive conduct,” she said. “Neither I nor our members will stop speaking out until this outrageous violation of privacy used to facilitate discriminatory hiring ends.”
Carteris has insisted that she might not have been cast in “Beverly Hills 90210” as high school valedictorian and newspaper editor Andrea Zuckerman had her actual age been known at the time. Carteris was 29 when she originated the role of the 16-year-old high schooler.
SAG-AFTRA chief operating officer and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland also complained Friday about the ruling. He said no decision has been made about further appeals.
“The Court’s conclusion that this law wouldn’t have a major impact on age discrimination in the entertainment industry is simply ill-informed,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “It highlights why it was so wrong for the trial court judge to deny us the opportunity to discover and present evidence that we know would have conclusively proved that point. Although no decision has been made about possible further appeals, SAG-AFTRA and our members will continue to seek out creative solutions to IMDb’s recalcitrance.”
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Secretary of State’s office or Amazon.