Federal Court Strikes Down Anti-Ageism Law – Good Move or Good Grief?
On the surface, California’s law requiring websites like IMDb to remove the ages of actors or actresses, upon their request, seems a bit silly. After all, it’s pretty easy to find someone’s age. All you need to do is perform a quick Google search and voila… information at your fingertips!
Besides, many of us find it hard to feel sorry for people who are making millions of dollars just for being famous. Of course, 99% of actors aren’t rich and most of them work their butts off, but, that’s another story!
Maybe California Had a Point
The more I think about it, the more I think that California might have been on to something. Think about it for a second… would you like to have your age at the top of your resume? Of course not!
While we are not ashamed of our age, we know that ageism still exists in the workplace. The last thing we want is for our age to become an issue. We want to be judged on the merits of our work.
For actors, IMDb is more than just a website. It IS their resume. When producers want to see your portfolio, IMDb is one of the first places that they look. So, when your age is at the top of your profile page, they can’t help but take it into consideration.
So, in the interest of fighting ageism, California stepped in and required websites like IMDb to take down actors’ ages, upon request. Sites like IMDb disagreed and the issue went to court.
Federal Court Says California’s Anti-Ageism Law Went Too Far
Now, a federal court has ruled that California’s anti-ageism law violates the First Amendment rights of websites like IMDb.
As justification for her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria said, “Regulation of speech must be a last resort… California has not shown that it adopted a measure ‘actually necessary’ to combating age discrimination.”
In other words, she argued that the harm done to actors by having their ages on public display was not sufficient to overrule the rights of sites like IMDb to publish them.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, COO and General Counsel of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), which represents 160,000 actors, radio personalities and journalists responded, “The Court unfortunately fails to understand or recognize the massive impact gender and age discrimination has on all working performers… That discrimination is facilitated by IMDb’s insistence on publishing performers’ age information without their consent.”
Did the Courts Get it Right? Is There a Better Way to Fight Ageism?
As with so many stories, this case is not cut and dry. It is a question of whose rights are more important in this specific case. It also raises some fascinating questions:
Do we own information about our age? Or, does information belong to the world?
At the very least, I am happy about one thing… the very fact that this case made its way to the courts has shed light on the issue of ageism in all professions. The only real antidote to ageism, sexism and discrimination is light and fresh air.
Regardless of the outcome of this case, let’s continue to fight for our right to be judged on the value that we bring and not our age, gender or other irrelevant characteristics.
Do you think that ageism is a big issue where you live? Why or why not? Were the federal courts right to strike down California’s anti-discrimination law? Let’s start a conversation!