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EFF Goes To Bat For Free Speech, Asks Appeals Court To Uphold Injunction Against California's Stupid 'Anti-Ageism' Law


Because the state is an idiot, the attorney general of California is appealing the federal court decision permanently preventing the state's government from enforcing its ultra-stupid "anti-ageism" law. The law -- which would do absolutely nothing to prevent movie studios from engaging in biased hiring -- targeted the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), preventing it from publishing facts about actors and actresses. This asinine, First Amendment-trampling law was prompted by failed litigation against IMDb by an actress who felt she was losing roles to younger actresses because the site had published her birthdate.

The federal court needed only six pages to tell the state how terrible its law was and what impact it would have on protected speech. This ridiculous argument -- supported by beneficiaries of the First Amendment (the Screen Actors Guild) -- was quickly dismantled by the presiding judge:

SAG-AFTRA contends that publication of facts about the ages of people in the entertainment industry can be banned because these facts "facilitate" age discrimination – an argument that, if successful, would enable states to forbid publication of virtually any fact. There is no support in controlling case law for the proposition that a state may ban publication of facts to impede a third party’s possible reliance on those facts to engage in discrimination.

The lawsuit persists, thanks to the state's infinite supply of time and other people's money. The obvious First Amendment violations are being pushed again on appeal. The EFF -- joined by The First Amendment Coalition, Wikimedia Foundation, Media Law Resource Center, and The Center for Democracy & Technology -- has filed a brief [PDF] in support of IMDb and Constitutional lawmaking in general.

The brief argues the First Amendment protects IMDb's publication of facts about people listed in its pages. That much should be painfully obvious, but the state can't seem see past its own do-somethingism. But, just as importantly, there's a First Amendment right to access factual information of public interest. And these facts definitely are of public interest -- something inadvertently argued by the law itself. If there's ageism in the movie industry, the more facts everyone has to work with, the more a case can be made the industry is engaging in discriminatory practices. Removing this info from circulation actually enables ageism by making movie studios the sole repository of this data.

The state should be embarrassed it's actually appealing the decision shutting down its obviously unconstitutional law. It's not going to get a win at the appellate level either, not when the best arguments it can offer have holes large enough to drive trucks full of First Amendment precedent through them. But I guess shame isn't part of the equation when all you're doing is flushing other people's money down the toilet.


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