California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Saturday a measure that requires film and television industry casting websites to remove actors’ ages upon request, in what supporters hope will be an important step in combatting age discrimination in Hollywood.
The law applies to entertainment casting websites that require a subscription to access, including the professional version of the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), a popular tool for casting agents.
Supporters of the law included SAG-AFTRA president and former actress Gabrielle Carteris, who wrote in an essay for the Hollywood Reporter last month that she hoped the law would combat the “blatant age discrimination” that casting agents employ when they are forced to consider an actor’s age when casting for projects.
“Gov. Jerry Brown today stood with thousands of film and television professionals and concerned Californians who urged him to sign AB 1687, a California law that will help prevent age discrimination in film and television casting and hiring,” Carteris said in a statement after the law’s passage.
The bill had cleared the state Assembly last month with broad support from Democrats, but some California Republicans said the law would do little to alleviate actual age discrimination in the industry.
“I don’t know what’s so sacred about celebrity birth dates,” Republican state Senator Jim Nielsen told the Los Angeles Times in August. “[Lawmakers] birth dates are everywhere. These celebrities are public figures just like most of us.”
It is unclear how the law could be enforced against sites like IMDb, of which the free version of the site would be exempt from the requirement. As Deadline notes, the company could simply cancel the IMDb Pro subscription of those who request their ages be scrubbed from the site, thereby nullifying the requirement to do so.
The law could also face a First Amendment challenge from free speech advocates, many of whom, including Internet Association president and CEO Michael Beckerman, were strongly opposed to the measure.
“Requiring the removal of factually accurate age information across websites suppresses free speech,” Beckerman wrote in an op-ed for the Hollywood Reporter last month. “This is not a question of preventing salacious rumors; rather it is about the right to present basic facts that live in the public domain. Displaying such information isn’t a form of discrimination, and internet companies should not be punished for how people use public data.”
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