California Censors IMDB Because of Hollywood's Alleged Ageism

Lawmakers attempt to tell online database what information it's allowed to publish.



California Gov. Jerry Brown has only a couple of days left to decide whether he's going to sign or veto an important reform bill that would seriously reduce the ability of local law enforcement agencies to abuse the asset forfeiture process to seize and keep millions of dollars from citizens without having to prove they've committed a crime.

But in the meantime, we've got this: Brown has signed into law a bill that censors the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) in what appears to be a fairly straightforward violation of the company's First Amendment rights. The IMDB is a familiar site for anybody looking to track down work by people in the film, television, and video games industry. It publishes the backgrounds of actors, their work histories, their biographies, and their birthdates.

That last part—birthdates (meaning ages)—is what several actors have a problem with. One sued unsuccessfully to try to force the IMDB to prevent the site from publishing her actual date of birth. The argument was that age discrimination in Hollywood and the acting industry is a serious, chronic issue, and publishing actors' ages could harm their chances at finding work.

After that attempt failed, the Screen Actors Guild then pushed lawmakers in Sacramento to fix the problem for them. They responded by passing AB-1687, which forbids IMDB (or similar sites) from publishing or sharing birthdates or ages from paying subscribers (industry folks who use the site for employment services). Gov. Brown signed the bill into law on Sunday.

So, is this unconstitutional censorship? Yes it most certainly is, says nearly every lawyer The Hollywood Reporter consulted. In fact, the only attorney who was absolutely certain the law would survive a constitutional challenge and gave it a full-throated defense was the general counsel for the very union who pushed it through the legislature.

Some of the opponents:

"Creating liability for the truthful reporting of lawfully obtained information is deeply problematic under the First Amendment," said UC Irvine dean and Constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky. "It is different to say 'men only' or 'women only' or 'whites only' in an ad. That is discrimination that is impermissible. A birthday or an age is a fact, and I don't think there can be liability under the First Amendment for publishing true facts."

Said Bruce Johnson, of Seattle's Davis Wright Tremaine, "Obviously, to the extent that it requires the removal of truthful information from websites reporting on matters of public interest, the statute would appear to be an unconstitutional abridgement of First Amendment rights."

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, defended the law as a legitimate business regulation:

"Requiring websites to remove all age information from profiles would seem to run afoul of the First Amendment restrictions on the regulation of commercial speech," Calderon had said in a statement to THR. "Limiting the bill to only subscribers makes it clear that the bill advances an important government interest — that of reducing age discrimination in a manner that is substantially related to that interest and no more extensive than necessary to achieve that interest."

Yes, but it's attempting to achieve the interest in reducing age discrimination by censoring a third-party site that is not responsible at all for the age discrimination these actors are claiming. This is the sort of mentality that has led to the European Union's terrible "right to be forgotten" policies, which permit people to demand that search sites censor links to information about them that may be completely factually correct but that they nevertheless don't want people to see. That's a good reason why the rest of us should care. It may not directly affect us whether actors' ages are allowed to be censored, but the justification for this government intervention can be directed elsewhere.

In addition, one lawyer noted, limiting the censorship to paying subscribers has the absurd side effect of requiring actors to "bribe" the IMDB for their silence by paying them to join up. Those who are not paying members would still face having their ages released.

Gabrielle Carteris, known to Gen-Xers as Andrea Zuckerman from Beverly Hills 90120, wrote a column for The Hollywood Reporter defending the law. She claims that the never would have gotten her role playing a teenager had people known she was actually 29 years old, which just goes to show she clearly never watched an episode of Glee.

The law does not go into effect until Jan. 1, assuming it is not legally challenged. IMDB did not respond to The Hollywood Reporter's questions.

NEXT: Maine Gov. Paul LePage's 'Binder of Drug Dealers' Shows He Was Lying About the Race of Arrestees

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  1. I would imagine that studios are perfectly capable of finding out the ages of actors and actresses without IMDB or even Google.

    1. Those motherfuckers gotta fill out an i9 and provide ID don’t they? Or was that just us citizens with real jobs?

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    2. “I am sorry, ma’am, but you are too old to play a high school prom queen. We are looking for someone in the 25-30 range for this role.”

    3. This. This petty lawsuit is clearly about their own vanity. If they were truly serious, they would continue on and try to outlaw plastic surgery and other forms of age-lessening procedures. But no. They want people to think that they stay young forever.

      1. That’s the thing that is so sad about many folks in Hollywood. Looking good is not the same thing as looking young. There are plenty of ugly people my age that couldn’t hope to compare with the best 50 year olds that Hollywood has to offer.

    4. I could maybe see the argument that withholding / lying about their age helps to get them an audition. That’s as far as I’d go with this nonsense.

    5. What’s next? Ban publishing the gender and race of an actor or actress because that promotes discrimination based on gender and race? Seems it’s common sense that discrimination in hiring actors and actresses is central and essential to the profession.

    6. It’s no different from being a transsexual. If someone self-identifies as a 20-year-old, no one has the right to contradict him.

    7. Why doesn’t California just ban Hollywood? Solves a ton of problems.

      1. In a sense, they are. The licensing and permitting structures in California are sending a lot of movie and TV crews to other states and countries, yet the CA legislature is to dense to understand that.

  2. I am completely unable to whip myself into a frenzy over this.

    What’s wrong with me?

    1. I don’t know, least important thing in the world?

    2. The first amendment is important to some of us. What is the punishment for violating the law? Knowing nanny-state legislators, it’s excessively disproportionate to the offense.

  3. I’m a big believer in the “broken windows” theory of First Amendment abuse.

    Let the government think they can break the law in little ways with impunity, and pretty soon they start thinking they can get away with anything.

    1. “But at least it stimulates the economy for the greater good.” – Krugman

      1. That’s a different kind of broken windows theory.

        1. That’s still probably what Krugman would say about a violation of First Amendment rights.

    2. Also known as the ‘slow-cooked frog’ recipe for totalitarianism.

  4. #ActressesTooOld

    1. It’s too bad Hollywood movies don’t have any need for older women roles to play moms, grandmas, Vice Presidents, scheming law partners, and predatory cougars.

      1. It’s too bad Hollywood movies don’t have any need for older women roles to play moms, grandmas

        “…and Selena Gomez as Hillary Clinton.”

        1. I was thinking more Honey Boo-Boo as Hillary.

      2. They should have taken a page out of Bette Davis’s playbook when she got old. Bette Davis took an axe and gave Joan Crawford 40 whacks.
        BTW I bet these old bitches weren’t complaining when they were young bitches elbowing aside the old bitches of their day.

  5. Never trust anyone over REDACTED

  6. I feel bad for Hollywood actresses, it’s not your ages that diminish your ‘would’ factor, it’s the ravages of time itself.

    Attacking the root cause of there needing to be a ‘would’ factor in movies seems more understandable yet totally implausible, as that would be like attacking basic human instinct. So left with few strategic options, attack the Cis-hetero Jewish patriarchy that makes movies — but there you’d be slandering your own potential employer.

    Ageing is lose, lose, lose — it’s sad to see the ways in which people try to cope or in this instance fail to cope.

    1. The thing is, there are plenty of actresses that look great into their 40s and even 50s. Or great enough on camera, with makeup, at least. They may not look 21, but they look damn good.

      Or maybe I’m getting old.

      1. Christie Brinkley. 62. Still would.

        1. Still not nearly as hot as Christie Brinkley at 22.

          1. But ten times as impressive, at least.

        2. Brinkley is the exception that proves the rule. Lynda Carter if you’re nostalgic?
          Cameron Diaz is scary looking now. There are a few that look good, but thousands of wanna-bes in their twenties and thirties that have a lot more ‘wood’ factor, some of it from the novelty of being unknown.

          As PC as Hollywood is, had to laugh at Marissa Tomei as Aunt May in Civil War…

      2. Look up pictures of Kelly LeBrock now. Remember how hot she was? Maybe you’re too young, but she was smoking hot.

        I’m in my mid-forties, and I have had to come to terms with the fact that I am no longer what I once was. I was a very pretty kid, and I got a lot of attention because of it, some welcome, some not. I aged well for a long time, and even in my late thirties I dated cute girls in their early twenties. And then- well it’s like I went over a cliff. Cute girls in their twenties might flirt with me a bit still, but they’d laugh at me if I actually made a pass at them (so I don’t, for the most part.)

        The sad truth is that we are only _really_ attractive for a few years. I had a longer run than most, but age has caught up with me as it catches up with us all. I’d be a cad if I complained too much about that (well, I’m a cad anyway, but I’d be more a cad.) I enjoyed the attention, and I miss it, but that’s the way things work.

        I’m not going to cry salty tears for actresses who worked for a while because of their looks, and eventually aged out of that profession. They had a good run, right?

    2. I dunno, do something with your life that doesn’t depend on your appearance? Tough, I know.

      Poor poor poor actors, so sad.

      1. The double standard certainly exists. Men can be sex symbols well into middle age.

        But it’s not some kind of conspiracy to keep women down. Seems like it’s just human nature and you aren’t going to fix it by making it easier for actresses to lie about their age. Sometimes reality is kind of sexist. Sexual dimorphism is a bitch.

        1. I dunno. Sean Connery and Sophia Loren had comparable time spent as super-hot.

          1. And I can think of a good number of actresses who are no longer exactly young who are still getting lots of good work.

            But I think it’s true that, as a generalization, older women will often get type cast in the older-woman roles at ages where many men can still play the lead role that gets the hot chick. Loads of exceptions, though.

            1. More likely it’s because young women can have children and start families whereas older women are essentially out of the game entirely. While mentally that might be a desirable trait for many people, I’d say around 50,000 years of evolution (at least) is saying get bent, go young. Just don’t overshoot or you’ll go to jail. Of course, it isn’t illegal if they look 17, hence Hollywood shooting for people who fit the look.

              I doubt they give two shits about the actors real age beyond the probability that they’ll look young for the duration of whatever timeline they have for their current project. Whatever you do, you don’t hire a child actor because spoiler alert: teenagers can deviate a whole lot in their look from year to year, which is a massive gamble for the producers. Especially in a movie that spends 2-4 years in production.

              Of course, they’ll all be out of work when each and every actor is digital.

              1. Yeah, that was my point with “sometimes reality is kind of sexist”. You are probably never going to change the overall preference for young, fit females in any culture. Sorry if that causes anxiety for some actresses.

                1. Yup its super unfair that making a ton of money for reading out loud can’t last forever.

            2. Hellen Mirren somehow manages.

              1. I don’t think she’s going to be playing a Prom Queen ever again. Amusingly though, her Birthday is listed loud and proud on Wikipedia. Kalifornia better get on that.

        2. That double standard is a two way street though. The fact is many actresses only got famous in the first place because of their looks, while talented but ugly men got shelved. Then the bimbo reaches 40 and everyone realizes she has nothing to offer but looks, and the studios are more interested in the talented middle aged ugly guy than her.

          The true victims here aren’t the talentless bimbos who would be waiting tables were it not for their looks; it’s the talented actresses and actors who get sidelined because they don’t have superficial sex appeal. I suspect that the real reason for the shortage of older actresses due to the fact that most of the actresses who are good at acting get weeded out or never get beyond doing plays because their jobs are taken by bimbos who can’t act and therefore become useless once they get too old. In short, it’s primarily hot talentless women, not men, that are subverting the careers of skilled actresses.

          1. In short, it’s primarily hot talentless women, not men, that are subverting the careers of skilled actresses.

            I don’t think the majority of these hot actresses lack acting talent. Some of them, sure. Most of the time, it’s skilled actress versus skilled hot actress, so hot wins out.

        3. It sounds to me that the solution is for all actresses to get a sex change.

    3. For some, it was all they had.

    4. Marie Dressler was most definitely not a “would”. But up until her untimely death, she was one of the most popular actresses Hollywood had.

      1. I agree: Marie Dressler is actually a very interesting case because she was cast in the young love interest roles early in life, then after that faded, she nearly quit acting, but came back in her 60s and had a great run.

  7. “She claims that the never would have gotten her role playing a teenager had people known she was actually 29 years old”

    29 is a great age, I should know, I’ve been 29 for years.

    1. As a man, I prefer 31, but I understand that my wife stopped aging at 29.

    2. Yeah, no one would have guessed that Gabrielle Carteris wasn’t 19 in 1990.

      1. Ian Ziering looked even older than his actual late 20s when he was on 90210.

    3. She is so full of shit.

      My friends and I openly mocked the fact that the “kids” on Dawson’s Creek were in their 20’s.

      1. Honestly, that’s probably how it should be, since the average teen actor probably lacks the basic acting skills to pull off playing a teenager on TV. This whole thing is stupid.

        1. But then Michelle Williams, the only teenager on the show playing a teenager, went on to be the respected actor of the bunch.

          1. Notice that I said the “average” teen actor, not the outliers.

            1. Just noting the irony. Jackson has done OK, but Beek’s last job was a long-running joke about himself and Holmes wasted her last few hot years on a sham marriage to a crazed midget.

              1. I was way too young to have watched Dawson’s Creek back then, but indeed it is ironic how it turned out.

                1. And I was way too old. 🙂

  8. Mary Pickford was playing teenagers well into her 30s, and this was 90 years ago. (Granted, she was also producing her movies, having co-founded United Artists.)

    1. Lower resolution helps.

  9. What’s next? Can Elizabeth Berkeley demand IMDB remove Showgirls from her filmography?

  10. We could avoid this whole debate by enacting a Logan’s Run style society.

    1. +1 Jenny Agutter

  11. What’s surprising is that there were no objections to it on privacy grounds. Birth date is one of the pieces of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that can be used to steal someone’s identity. Generally, privacy laws protect date of birth these days for that reason. It’s not as sensitive as social security number or bank account number, but it is useful for identity thieves.

    Of course, every day the Detroit Free Press has a list of famous people whose birthday it is (and today I actually knew who most of them are–Li’l Wayne and Avril Lavigne, among others). So maybe nobody cares even if nefarious things could be done with the information. It would be interesting to see whether the California law applies to, for example, http://www.famousbirthdays.com/


    1. I think these actors don’t want the *year* of their birth to be known.

      1. They wouldn’t mind blabbing their birthday all over so long as they omit the year.

      2. They always want cake (heh!) AND the candles, but want the number of candles to be redacted. I get it!

  12. The Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.) is at it again.

    1. MATT DAMON!!!!

  13. Next they’re going to delete any identifying information which would show what sex an actor/actress is…oops, I really shouldn’t be giving them ideas.

  14. It’s Shackelford.

      1. There’s a helluva man. Spent a year after he lost his boat near the South Pole getting back to somewhere other people might pass them by and his entire crew survived. Really, one guy lost some fingers to frostbite, but they were fairly hale when they got to the whaling station.

        1. I’d figure any Antarctic expedition is gonna cost at least a hand’s worth of fingers. SOP.

        2. Yeah, it’s just amazing how tough and resourceful some people can be.

  15. Lots of people complain about ageism and Hollywood actresses, but what of professional athletes?

    1. Go watch some footage of Willie Mays playing about six seasons too long. Nobody wants to be that. I hear Joe Montana can barely walk some days.

      1. Mays actually had a terrific season at age 40 with the Giants and Mets. The next season at 41 is when his career went off a cliff.

        Steve Carlton was the saddest. Dude pitched poorly for 4-5 teams in his last two seasons, getting released over and over but refusing to face reality. I believe he didn’t actually retire, either – he just couldn’t convince anyone else to sign him.

    2. I don’t know exactly why, but people are more accepting of the fact that natural athleticism declines with age than natural beauty. It may also be the case that women actresses (in general, not all) have an earlier and shorter peak than men as far as beauty is concerned.

      1. It isn’t necessarily their output that craps out first, so much as their ability to recover from peak performance. Or in the case of contact sports like football, injuries. When some of the older quarterbacks start pushing forty they all tend to get hurt easily and take a long time to recover.

        Things like that are why I respect athletes for knowing when to call it a day. Instead of bitterly clinging to a career that was realistically over years earlier.

  16. Wait! You mean production companies actually use iMDB as a primary source for talent? I would think they just would call an agency or two, and have all the prospects they could handle.

    1. This confounded me, too. Not only that, the law applies only to the paying subscribers — so apparently the non-paying subscribers (like you and me) can still see birthdates. That doesn’t make sense.

      1. OK, a closer read of the HR article shows that its the paid subscriber (presumably an actor) who can request removal of their birth date. So Scott should have said “of paying subscribers” not “from paying subscribers”.

        1. He clarified when he said that the actors would essentially be paying a bribe to remove their birthday, but I entirely agree that for such a simple concept he did a terrible job of making it clear.

  17. How do they even enforce this?? It’s a web site, they can locate their servers anywhere.

    1. Don’t worry, the next president will put this issue at the top of his or her agenda. We cannot, as a nation, allow renegade websites to publish facts without consent of our best people.

  18. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, defended the law as a legitimate business regulation

    Of course he did. As long as it’s “legitimate business regulation,” then the government can do whatever the hell it wants, right? Certainly true in California.

    1. In California, a regulation is legitimate if it did something. Anything…that feels right. That’s all that matters.

    2. I looked him up, assuming that he was a shyster, I wanted to know what fifth-rate law school he crawled out of, but it turns out that he’s a marketing dink.


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  20. Aging is the worst career mistake an actress can make.

    1. As long as Hollywood actresses continue to think to themselves that looking good = looking young, this will continue to stay true. There are many folks in Hollywood, especially men, that look mature and look good at the same time. If you have something else to offer besides looks, there is no need to feel vain.

  21. “…It may not directly affect us whether actors’ ages are allowed to be censored, but the justification for this government intervention can be directed elsewhere….”

    They came for the…

  22. RE: California Censors IMDB Because of Hollywood’s Alleged Ageism
    Lawmakers attempt to tell online database what information it’s allowed to publish.

    Well of course Kalifornia lawmakers are telling online databases what information it’s allowed to publish.
    After all, the little people running a business are obviously too stupid to know what should and shouldn’t be put online.
    Next up, censoring private conversations and the challenges The State must overcome.

  23. Based on their logic, they’ll have to go after Wikipedia at some point. Baby steps…

  24. So I’m supposed to just take “Barely Legal Teens – Cream Pies 7” at their word?

    1. Are they seeking employment with you?

    2. In porn they have to keep records of age due to federal law.

  25. Lawmakers attempt to tell online database what information it’s allowed to publish.

    Jack Benny hardest hit.

  26. For Jeopardy: The answer is “Government.”

    The question: “What is the leading cause of anarchy?”

    Seriously, how can people pass such inane laws?

  27. Wikipedia usually gives DOB in their articles, too. IMDB should simply refuse to comply with this obviously unconstitutional statute, and dare the California government to do anything about it.


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