By Audrey Nguyen and Michael Arnold
California’s governor has signed into law a bill aimed at discouraging discriminatory age hiring practices in the entertainment industry. The law focuses on internet websites identifying ages, but critics question whether the law is constitutional and if it will have any real impact.
The Law Restricts the Publishing of Certain Age-Related Information
The new law, Assembly Bill 1687, is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2017, and requires commercial sites providing “online entertainment employment” services to remove the date of birth and other age information of a paid subscriber at that subscriber’s request. Furthermore, it prohibits such sites from sharing the above information with any “Internet Web sites for the purpose of publication.”
The law defines a “commercial online entertainment employment service provider” as
“a person or business that owns, licenses, or otherwise possesses computerized information, including, but not limited to, age and date of birth information, about individuals employed in the entertainment industry, including television, films, and video games, and that makes the information available to the public or potential employers.”
“Provide employment services” is defined as “post[ing] resumes, photographs, or other information about a subscriber when one of the purposes is to provide individually identifiable information about the subscriber to a prospective employer.”
These sites have five days to remove the information after receiving a paid subscriber’s request. Subscribers who do not pay for such employment services are not covered by the law.
The law’s stated purpose is to “ensure that information obtained on an Internet Web site regarding an individual’s age will not be used in furtherance of employment or age discrimination.” As such, it assumes that these online entertainment databases, such as IMDb and Studio System, facilitate age discrimination by publishing factually accurate age information.
Critics of the Law Cite First Amendment and Efficacy Concerns
Groups like the Internet Association and The Electronic Frontier Foundation oppose the law. They argue it is both unconstitutional and ineffective at addressing the problem of age discrimination in the entertainment industry. These opponents are concerned that the law suppresses free speech by requiring the removal of factually accurate age information that often already exists elsewhere on the internet. They also argue that the law is ineffective because it is unfairly under-inclusive. The law does not prevent sites that are not “commercial online entertainment employment service provider[s]” from publishing age information. As a result, it may give those other sites a competitive advantage; for example, under the law, IMDb may be forced to remove an actor’s birth date but Wikipedia would not. We expect the law therefore, to be challenged in due course.