California’s entertainment industry is one of its most profitable sectors. Profits from Hollywood studios and other parts of the industry pour an estimated $294 billion into the state’s economy every year, and it is estimated that the entertainment industry employs one out of every ten Californians.
While the industry is profitable, it is not without its faults. In the film, fashion, or performance sectors, a person’s looks mean everything, and age is no one’s friend. It is very common for entertainers to lose a job opportunity or a position once he or she gets too old to play a certain role or part.
Because the entertainment industry is so important to the state’s economy, the state legislature recently attempted to cut back on the amount of age discrimination that goes on. Recently, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill which would require certain websites to remove an entertainer’s age or date of birth on request.
Websites like IMDB.com and StudioSystem.com offer entertainers the ability to subscribe to the website and create an online profile. For those who are new to the entertainment industry, a profile on these site or similar sites provides a sense of legitimacy, and creates an online resume of that entertainer’s previous work. Because these sites can be so vital to a person’s employability, the SAG-AFTRA union pushed hard for legislation that would allow entertainers to remove their ages if they want.
The new law, also known as AB 1687, requires “commercial online entertainment employment service providers” like IMDB to remove a subscriber’s age and/or date of birth from the site within five days of that person’s request. The law only applies to websites that require a subscription—sites like Wikipedia, which are curated by the general public without input from the entertainer, are exempt
from the law.
While the law, in theory, could help entertainers fight back against age discrimination, many in the legal industry believe that the new law may be unconstitutional. Companies and individuals have a First Amendment right to free speech, and publishing publicly-known facts like a person’s birthdate would seem to fall squarely into protected speech. A person’s date of birth is a matter of public record, and publishing facts from the public record is generally not considered libelous or illegal in any way.
Age discrimination is a serious problem throughout California, especially in the entertainment and fashion industries. Unfortunately, while measures like these may have good intentions, it is highly possible that the law could be overturned if IMDB or a similar website filed a lawsuit. Until that happens, however, people in the entertainment industry should take advantage of the protections of the new law and give themselves the best chance at getting hired.