Consider this only the latest in our series on the, er… interesting laws which the fine people of California keep on passing. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) is currently acting a group of outlaws in the Golden State because their online profiles of thousands of actors generally include the birthdays and ages of the celebrities they feature, along with their credits and all the rest of the data they provide. Why is that a problem? Because it’s illegal now. And no.. I’m not even joking. (Washington Post)
If someone were to ask you the age of actress Kate Beckinsale, you would likely pop over to the Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb and read on her page that she was born on July 26, 1973.
Technically, the reason you would be able to do this is because IMDb is breaking a new California law that went into effect Jan. 1 and makes illegal the posting of an actor’s birth date to a “commercial online entertainment employment service provider.”
While most fans may not think of this repository of film information as an employment service provider, it sells directories to industry professionals, such as casting directors, and so it falls into this category.
According to the law’s text, its purpose is “to ensure that information obtained on an Internet Web site regarding an individual’s age will not be used in furtherance of employment or age discrimination.”
So the stated purpose of this law is supposedly to prevent age discrimination in employment. Seriously? First of all, we’re talking about famous people in the case of IMDB. It’s not as if you could just go on Wikipedia or any of a million fan sites and look up their ages, right? But even if this were having some sort of positive effect (which it’s not), is that really how we’re supposed to go about preventing discrimination in hiring? Shall all web sites now be banned from showing pictures of people so as to prevent prospective employers from figuring out their race? And what about gender? If an employer is unsure of your gender there must be countless ways to figure that out.
While we’re on the subject, the media covers these celebrities constantly and they regularly report on their age as part of the basic background material. Can California now sue to shut down CNN and E Television if they mention the ages of the actors receiving Golden Globes awards? (Oops… they did it again last night. Better run and pull all of those tapes.)
The way to prevent discrimination by age or any other demographic is to allow job seekers to file complaints if they believe they are the subject of discrimination and have the appropriate agencies investigate. The simple existence of the information out on the web is not an indicator of a problem… it’s whether someone is using the information in a discriminatory fashion.
But hey.. this is California we’re talking about here. They’ve never seen a good piece of intrusive government regulation they didn’t like, and there are many, many lawyers who need to stay employed by suing people out there. It’s all part of a vast, social justice oriented economic stimulus plan.