Celebrity and film database IMDb fights California age discrimination law

The internet movie database IMDb.com is refusing to follow a new California law that gives people the right to have their age removed from the website. SAG-AFTRA, the country’s largest actors’ union, is now teaming up with California to defend the law.

So far, more than 2,300 people have demanded that their birth dates be removed from IMDb.com, but the company is pushing back, citing free speech violations. It is suing the state of California and asking the courts to decide whether the law is constitutional, reports CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal.

When Gabrielle Carteris was cast as 16-year-old Andrea Zuckerman on “Beverly Hills, 90210,” she says the show’s producers didn’t know that she was actually 29.

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Gabrielle Carteris’ IMDB profile   

“The producers came to me and said, ‘If we had known your age, you never would have gotten the role,’” Carteris said.

That was more than two decades ago and before casting directors started using public databases like IMDb to decide who gets to audition.

“When the first thing that comes up is their age, it’s like a subconscious bias that’s created,” Carteris said. 

Now president of the actor’s union, SAG-AFTRA, Carteris is defending a new California state law, which requires sites like IMDb.com to remove someone’s age from a profile if they request it. The law is less than two weeks old and is already getting support from Hollywood.

“Any change in the law that will enable talent to be recognized above any other discrimination, so I’m in full support of that,” actor Andrew Garfield said.

“I think it’s very important that we end ageism for sure,” actress Judith Light said.

Ageism has long plagued Hollywood’s leading ladies. An analysis by Time magazine in 2015 found that female actors see their careers peak at age 30, while their male counterparts peak at 46.

“You’ll see it in movies -- it’s the older man and the younger girl,” Carteris said.

Examples include “Pretty Woman” with 22-year-old Julia Roberts and 40-year-old Richard Gere, “As Good As It Gets” with 34-year-old Helen Hunt and 60-year-old Jack Nicholson, and “Silver Linings Playbooks” with 22-year-old Jennifer Lawrence and 37-year-old Bradley Cooper.

“I think age discrimination is a problem. I think that should be addressed in Hollywood at the studios,” Michael Beckerman said. His trade group represents some of the top internet companies.

“You’re setting a precedent that any state can censor factual information off a narrow section of websites. This has nothing to do with age discrimination in Hollywood,” Beckerman said.

IMDb told CBS News it will not remove any birth dates or age data from the site while litigation is ongoing. For its part, SAG-AFTRA says the law won’t impact big-name celebrities whose personal information is already out in the open, but rather the working-class actors and performers who are just trying to get a foot in the door.