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IMDb.com argues new age discrimination law is unconstitutional

By Dee Thompson | Dec 8, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) – IMDb.com, the Internet movie database website, has filed a motion for summary judgment in its lawsuit against the Attorney General of California, arguing that the passage of California Assembly Bill 1687 restricts its right to free speech and is also not necessary.

A motion hearing was held on Oct. 26 regarding the cross motion for summary judgment filed by IMDb.com Inc. Judge Vince Chhabria presided. The court took the matter under submission after hearing oral argument and said it will issue a written ruling.

In its motion for summary judgment filed Aug. 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, IMDb.com argues that “First, the law is unconstitutional because it censors the publication of truthful information that is in the public interest. The Supreme Court has uniformly struck down such laws regardless of the interest asserted by the state in defense of the laws....  Second, AB 1687 is not narrowly tailored because the state cannot prove that it is ‘actually necessary’ to serve its goal of combating age discrimination.” 

IMDb.com Inc., a Delaware Corporation filed suit against Xavier Becerra, in his official capacity as attorney general of the State of California in the United States District Court, Northern District of California in November 2016.

On Jan. 1, 2017, AB 1687 went into effect. That law says that any “commercial online entertainment employment service provider” may not “[p]ublish or make public the subscriber’s date of birth or age information in an online profile of the subscriber.” 

IMDbPro, an offshoot of the main website that makes information available to subscribers including actors, directors, etc. including birthdates and ages, was required under the new law to remove that age information not only from IMDbPro but from the public website, IMDb.com, as well.

SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union, lobbied for the passage of the law, ostensibly to combat age discrimination in the movie industry.

“Although censorship of IMDb may be a politically expedient response to SAG-AFTRA’s demands on the legislature, restricting speech must be a last resort and only go so far as is necessary. Further, AB 1687 is unconstitutionally overinclusive because it applies equally to producers, directors, casting agents, and various other entertainment professionals of all ages, many of whom face no realistic risk of age discrimination beyond that of the general public. The law is also unconstitutionally under-inclusive, because it does nothing to restrict the ready availability of the same factual age information from other public sources,” IMDb argues in its motion. 

The final paragraph of IMDb's motion argues in favor of striking down AB 1687, noting "IMDb respectfully requests that the court grant IMDb’s motion for summary judgment and strike down AB 1687 as unconstitutional under the First Amendment."

John Hueston and Moez Kaba of Hueston Henningan LLP in Los Angeles are the attorneys for the plaintiff. Attorney Anthony Hakl represents Becerra. 

Editor's note: The article headline was updated to clarify the passage of bill into law.

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California Attorney General U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California