A new law, called AB 1687, has been passed in California. It says that, should an actor or actress ask the website IMDb -- or Internet Movie Database -- to take their age off of the site, the site has to comply. They are legally obligated to remove that information.
While the law got a lot of support from legislators, experts are now saying that it could face a very big problem: It may be unconstitutional. Of course, IMDb could choose to honor the requests of actors and actresses if they'd like, but the problem is that a person's age is simply a piece of factual information. Asking the site not to publish that information is one thing, but legally punishing a company for simply printing facts is quite another. That's where the law gets into tricky legal ground, as laws restricting the spread of information, especially with no opinions attached, may violate the First Amendment.
Even for those who think that whether or not a website displays a person's age isn't a very big deal, the issue could be with the precedent that it sets. It would essentially allow the government to legally censor facts from the media. That is problematic on a lot of levels and could set a dangerous precedent for information that is more important in the future.
It is worth noting that "commercial speech" can be regulated in some cases, so many think the law will hold up on those grounds, since IMDb can be used during the hiring process.
The law actually does have an honorable goal, questions of legitimacy aside. Age discrimination can be a problem in Hollywood, and it's illegal to hire and fire people based only on age. The law was merely intended to help curb age discrimination and bring fair hiring practices to the industry.
When this law was signed, it was a big step for employee rights in California. It will be very interesting to see if and when it is challenged, and workers everywhere may be interested in the outcome. Remember, just like race and religion, age is a protected class. However, free speech is also protected.
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