Tuesday, September 27, 2016

California passes law allowing actors to have birthdates removed from imdb

California’s governor Jerry Brown has signed into a law a bill requiring websites to remove actors’ birth-dates or ages if requested to do so.

The main focus is imdb (especially imdbpro), which is owned by Amazon.  The Wall Street Journal has a story (referring to a 2012 story) on the issue by Jacob Gershman here (paywall).

Hollywood Reporter has a story by Jonathan Handel indicating that the law is probably unconstitutional.    The law applies only to paid sites where people post information, but then free sides inherit the requirement (that is imdb inherits from imdbpro).

I wonder why this information would be protected with regards to actors or actresses who are “public figures”.  Lesser known acting persons (especially women) may tend to be more affected by “casting discrimination”.  But independent films cast older actors all the time.

The information is also often present on Wikipedia.  The law does not seem to apply to Wikipedia (which is now based in San Francisco). It would not seem to apply to other sites or blogs.

Earlier there was a petition regarding the issue.

I think that the issue is related to casting diversity, which may become a sore point in casting some indie films where the original writer imagines very specific settings and people-appearances to make some scenes (especially with sexual connotations) work.

This would be particularly true of a couple of my scripts (for example, “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”, set mostly on a rama-like space station, preliminary treatment here. Very recently, there has been some indication of possible interest.

Here’s a favorite film where casting diversity has to follow the plot, “In the Heat of the Night” (1967 Norman Jewison, Mirsch and UA) with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.  I remember the line about “your cool body.”

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