November 7, 2016
Recently, California state enacted a new law that allows actors and other entertainment industry professionals to require removal of their ages posted on certain websites. Specifically, A.B. 1687 requires commercial entertainment employment providers like the Internet Movie Database (“IMDb”), that offer paid subscription services for actors and other professionals to post profiles, to remove an actor’s date of birth or age within five days of a subscriber’s request. The law does not apply to websites that allow public users to upload or modify Internet content without prior review, such as Wikipedia. While the law is not expected to have a great impact on top-billing Hollywood stars whose ages are widely known, it is intended to protect the opportunities of lesser-known or emerging actors.
A.B. 1687 was enacted following Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al., 11-cv-01709 (W.D. Wash. 2011)—a lawsuit filed by actress Huong Hoang (a.k.a. Junie Hoang). Ms. Hoang claimed that Amazon subsidiary IMDb had violated her subscriber agreement when it published Hoang’s age online which resulted in diminished career prospects. While the jury found that Ms. Hoang had failed to establish a claim for breach of contract against IMDb, the lawsuit catalyzed support from members of the influential actor’s union SAG-AFTRA.
It remains to be seen whether the new law will pose challenges in court based on claims that it unconstitutionally censors free speech on the Internet in violation of The First Amendment; Internet access and free speech advocates have already voiced their opposition. Should the law withstand challenges, it further remains to be seen whether its applicable scope will be significant enough to protect the privacy of actors with regard to age, and what, if any, effect it has on how casting directors research or evaluate potential actors based on their ages. A.B. 1687 goes into effect on January 1, 2017.
This article is intended only as a general discussion of these issues. It is not considered to be legal advice or relied upon. For more information, please contact Reavis Parent Lehrer LLP Associate Ethan Krasnoo, who counsels clients on employment, entertainment and media, First Amendment, and data privacy matters. Mr. Krasnoo is admitted to practice in New York State, the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and U.S. Tax Court.