A California law that restricts a popular Hollywood website from posting actors' ages raises First Amendment concerns and does not appear likely to combat age discrimination in the entertainment industry in any meaningful way, a federal judge said Wednesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria granted IMDb.com's request to block AB 1687 while the website's lawsuit challenging it winds through the courts.
Chhabria said the law prevented IMDb from publishing factual information on its public website, and the state had not shown it was necessary to combat age discrimination in Hollywood.
"It's not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all," the judge said.
The law — authored by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier — took effect in January and allows actors and other industry professionals to force IMDb to take down their ages.
IMDb said in court documents it shared the goal of preventing age discrimination, but the law wouldn't achieve that goal and would instead "chill free speech and undermine public access to factual information."
The state attorney general's office has said the Legislature had determined that existing anti-discrimination laws were not enough to eliminate age discrimination in Hollywood. It cited comments by Calderon that actors were concerned that they would be shut out from parts based on age bias.
The state attorney general's office did not immediately have comment on the ruling.
Calderon has said the bill was aimed at protecting lesser-known actors and actresses whose ages are not as readily available as bigger Hollywood stars.
The law was supported by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which said in a statement the ruling simply represented an early skirmish in the legal fight.
"SAG-AFTRA will continue to fight until we achieve for actors and other entertainment industry professionals the same rights to freedom from age discrimination in hiring enjoyed by other workers in other industries," said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union's chief operating officer and general counsel.
Chhabria said there are likely "more direct, more effective, and less speech-restrictive ways" of fighting discrimination in Hollywood.