The law is designed to improve the industry-wide problem of ageism in the Hollywood film industry
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into the state’s statute books a new law that will require entertainment websites likes IMDb to remove from posting details relating to an actor’s age or date of birth if requested to do so. The law, which will apply from January 1st, 2017 is applicable to any website that asks users or subscribers to post headshots of career listings for casting purposes.
The Screen Actors Guild union lobbied for the bill to be signed into law, arguing that the legislation will help prevent age discrimination, an industry-wide problem. Writing in The Hollywood Reporter in August, Gabrielle Carteris, the current SAG-AFTRA president, described the culture of ageism that permeates Hollywood’s casting process as “blatant discrimination.”
“This problem exists for all performers, but most distinctly for women. Performers create characters and often employ illusion to do so,” Carteris said. “Many actors have endured age discrimination of some sort throughout their careers. Those isolated, individual cases have now morphed into the almost automatic age discrimination made possible by the online casting services. The information is put front and centre before those make the decisions about whom to audition and whom to hire.”
The law has not been welcomed by everyone in the entertainment industry, however, with some saying it impinges on free speech rights. “Supporters of the bill may argue the measure is limited to target a specific case of age discrimination in Hollywood, but they cannot have their cake and eat it too,” the Internet Association’s Michael Beckerman wrote in an editorial bashing the law.
“Either censorship is limited to a few websites, making it ineffective, or it must be so comprehensive that it eliminates this information from the public domain entirely, posing unacceptable limits to free speech,” Beckerman added.
Despite these concerns, the bill bringing the law into action passed with an overwhelming majority.