IMDb Age Discrimination Trial Could Go Before Cameras

By November 18, 2016
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When we think of major cases in the past like the O.J. Simpson murder trial, or even the cases presented in the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, we imagine cameras in the courtroom.

But when it comes to federal court, cameras are actually a rarity.

That might be different for Internet Movie Database’s lawsuit challenging California’s new law that restricts the popular website from listing the ages of actors.

chhabria-mug111816The case, which the Amazon company filed last week, has been assigned to Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco. The city’s former deputy city attorney, Chhabria was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama in 2013.

But the more interesting part of the assignment is a program Chhabria is a part of, which could actually bring the trial itself straight to your computer.

Chhabria is one of 17 judges in the northern California region who participates in the “Cameras in the Courtroom Pilot Project.” Although the federal project ended in 2015, some districts – including Chhabria’s – have chosen to continue it. That means unless any of the parties object, what unfolds in the courtroom could indeed unfold in front of the cameras.

That development could be advantageous to both sides who not only are fighting a legal battle, but also a political one surrounding what is said to be rampant age discrimination in Hollywood, especially among actresses.

IMDb is challenging a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 24 that would force IMDb to remove actor ages from its profile pages upon request. The bill, championed by SAG-AFTRA union president and former Beverly Hills 90210 star Gabrielle Carteris, is designed to help curb age discrimination primarily by not allowing it to be a factor by casting agents when they review actors through the database.

imdblogo111116IMDb, however, contends that if casting agents wanted to know the ages of actors, there are a variety of other resources available to them, including Wikipedia and Google – neither of which are addressed in the law. Also, IMDb says that it already has the options for actors to remove their age from the subscription-based IMDbPro section, which is the primary location casting agents use specialized software to review various actors.

The lawsuit named Kamara Harris as the defendant. She was the state attorney general at the time the law was passed, but is now the U.S. Senate-elect for California, replacing Barbara Boxer in Washington.

Recording of a hearing or trial is not automatic, however. Once a hearing or trial is scheduled, cameras have to be requested either by the judge, any part in the case, or even the media. However, once the request is made, all sides have to consent, meaning anyone involved in the case has veto power over the use of cameras.

Once a hearing or trial is recorded, it will be made available to the public online. However, the judge still controls the entire process from start to finish, and can choose to allow only certain portions to be recorded, or none at all.

The IMDb case is still in the early stages, and California – as the defendants – have not yet responded in public filings.

IMDb boasts nearly 4 million titles in its database, and 9 million people. It serves a registered user base of 67 million. The original complaint can be found here.

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael has spent more than 18 years of his way-long journalism career in entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based in New York City.