As one of the biggest economies and most populated states in the country, California can seem like a land of its own. Whether its products “known to cause cancer in the state of California” or battles over sanctuary cities, the Golden State sets its own rules. It’s no surprise the state recently tried to limit IMDb’s right to free speech – but the results of the case are unexpected.
Because California is home to Hollywood, the state often finds itself advocating for the special interests of its most-taxed citizens. The California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, recently joined up with SAG-AFTRA, a union for professional actors, to uphold a state law, AB1687. The law passed in 2016 but has been under an injunction since 2017. If allowed, the law would prevent the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), from publishing the real age of any actor who paid for a subscription to IMDbPro. Becarra and SAG-AFTRA argued that IMDbPro creates a special relationship between actors and IMDb.com, and this relationship limits IMDb’s free speech rights.
The same judge who put the law on hold last year has ruled against Becerra and SAG-AFTRA. Judge Vince Chhabria called AB1687 “clearly unconstitutional” according to the Los Angeles Times. IMDb has argued its right to free speech is violated by the law, and Judge Chhabria seems to agree. The Judge was particularly unmoved by the state’s argument that the law was necessary to protect actresses from age-related discrimination, calling that defense unclear.
SAG-AFTRA is already planning an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The guild issued a statement claiming Judge Chhabria failed to understand the central argument of the case. It’s unclear for Becerra will join in the appeal efforts.