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An Open Secret (anti-pedophilia, anti-Hollywood film) posted on Twitter the following claim which was retweeted 1k+ times:

Did you know?

California Child Protection Act of 2012

Requires adults working with child actors to pass a background check & get a permit

5 years later

No Hollywood publicist registered

The law was being ignored & nobody got punished

The Attorney General?

Kamala Harris

Ask @KamalaHarris

While Attorney General Of California

Why didn’t she enforce the 2012 Child Protection Act

To protect child actors from pedophiles

While serving as Attorney General, did Kamala Harris ignore the anti-pedophilia 2012 Child Protection Act?

  • 1
    Needs reference to the actual law, or a credible summary. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 16 at 15:34
  • 6
    There's a 2018 article about the issue here. In particular, in reference to @kyle's comment, it distinguishes between talent agents (to whom the law does not apply) and publicists (to whom it allegedly does, although it may depend on interpretation of the law). The article also says that enforcement of the law is the responsibility of the Department of Industrial Relations, which is not within the Department of Justice and does not report to the Attorney General. – Nate Eldredge Aug 16 at 16:00
  • 2
    On the other hand, the statute does provide that "[t]he Attorney General, any district attorney, or any city attorney may institute an action for a violation of this chapter, including an action to restrain and enjoin a violation." – Nate Eldredge Aug 16 at 16:14
  • 2
    There seems to be some problems with the claims from that movie en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Open_Secret#Controversy – Joe W Aug 16 at 17:43
  • 3
    I'm not sure why the downvotes here. Perhaps a more neutral wording "To what level was this act enforced while Kamala Harris' was AG?" but the current wording is pretty neutral already. We handle these kinds of claims all the time. @NateEldredge answering with a frame flip that the AG is not responsible for this in the first place would be pretty good, but might not be the case. – fredsbend Aug 17 at 20:36
5

There's a couple things about this claim that seem to be either lacking or completely wrong.

First is the law it references. Which one? There's one for the Federal level and one for California, both in 2011-2012. There may be more, but these are the only 2 that could be relevant.

The law

Since this is specifically stating California, I'll break the law for the state down, with help.

Who needs a permit:

  • Providing still photography, digital photography, video, and film services to a minor for use as an artist or performer
  • Managing or directing the development or advancement of the minor's career as an artist or performer
  • Career counseling, career consulting, vocational guidance, aptitude testing, evaluation, or planning, as these services relate to the preparation of the minor for employment as an artist or performer.
  • Public relations services or publicity, or both, including arranging personal appearances, developing and distributing press packets, managing fan mail, designing and maintaining Internet web sites, and consulting on media relations for an artist or performer under 18 years of age.
  • Instruction, evaluation, lessons, coaching, seminars, workshops, or similar training as an artist, including but not limited to acting, singing, dance, voice, or similar instruction services for minor who is seeking to secure employment as an artist or performer
  • Owners, directors, and employees including camp counselors, coaches, and instructors of a camp in which any portion of the camp includes any services described in the previous bullet points.

Who doesn't need a permit:

  • The use, exhibition or employment of performers under 18 years of age (minors) at any church, academy or school (including dancing schools) as part of regular services or activities or in annual graduation exercises.
  • Performances taking place away from the school campus when the activity is under the direction, control, or supervision of the Department of Education (for instance, if minors perform at a convalescent home as part of a school-organized activity).
  • Providing still photography, digital photography, video, and film services for a minor engaged in activities described in the two preceding bullet points, or for private home use.
  • Persons licensed as talent agents, as specified in Chapter 4 of the Labor Code (beginning with section 1700), or operating under the license of a talent agent. Studio Teachers certified by the Labor Commissioner's Office, as defined in section 11755 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations
  • A person whose contact with minors is restricted to locations where either by law or regulation, the minor must be accompanied at all times by a parent of guardian and the parent or guardian must be within sight or sound of the minor
  • A person who has only incidental and occasional contact with minors (physical presence within 10 feet of a minor artist who is unaccompanied by an adult for not more than 10 minutes at a time, and not more than two occurrences within any seven-day period. This exemption does not apply if the person works directly with minors, has supervision or disciplinary power over them, or receives a fee.

Both sections come from bizparentz.org, a site dedicated to help performing children and their families.

So, it looks like there's very specific reasons for not getting a permit, including when a parent is present and "within sight or sound of the minor". This would mean that any time the parent is on set with the child, a permit may not be necessary. I'd assume the highly paid lawyers of the big studios would have a better grasp of this law than me, and if they haven't required the studios to get a permit, that's a big clue to me that it isn't necessary for everything.

Background check

Also, notice that it says "permit", not "background check". The site set up for searching these permits say that the DOJ reviews the application, but it doesn't specifically say "background check". It seems like it could qualify as a background check, so I'm not going to question that part of the claim too hard.

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Child_performer_services_permit_FAQs.htm

Checking the database

https://cadir.secure.force.com/RegistrationCPSsearch/

Doing a search from Jan 2012 to Dec 2017 at the above DB shows that there aren't any registrations during that time frame. However, the earliest entry into the DB is 7/3/2019, so it seems that even 2 years after she became a Senator, there wasn't anyone registered. However, this seems to related to the fact that this database was only created in May of 2019.

Effective May 20, 2019, a new online system was implemented. You must create a new online account. Any existing username and password will not work.

https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/Child_performer_services_permit.htm

As I'm not familiar with this system, and the likelihood that the old database isn't available to the public, there's very little chance we can see who was registered prior to this new system.

But there's still a few things we can learn from this database.

  • The amount of people and businesses registered is not very large. There's maybe a couple hundred entries. That's it.
  • The first registered person was 2 months after the new system was put into place.

Granted, this isn't a 100% guarantee, but it seems as if this means there really aren't that many people or businesses who are required to get this permit. With the amount of child actors and actresses in California and the litigious nature of Hollywood alone, I'd expect every major and minor studio to have everyone of their major actors, every director, every onsite prop and wardrobe associate, every hiring person, photographers, and maybe even caterers get this permit to cover their ass.

This isn't an expensive permit ($198), so the studio would likely cover it as a Cost of Doing Business to make sure they could get their movie made. Even if they spent $10k on these permits for extras and other new adult actors/actresses, that's a drop in the ocean for most Hollywood budgets.

Further research

https://deadline.com/2018/04/hollywood-child-labor-law-california-permit-database-ignored-1202379257/

The above article is from April 30, 2018. It states that there's few people registered in the database at that time, but that there are people registered. It also goes on to say that there are more than just these registered, but it doesn't give a total number of people registered.

More than 40 managers are listed in the state’s database of permit-holders, but Deadline has found an equal number who don’t have permits but manage the careers of child performers anyway.

Enforcement

The law doesn't state who is enforcing it, so it'd probably be up to the police. On reading the article from Deadline (as posted in the previous section), enforcement is up to the Department of Industrial Relations, not the Attorney General. Looking at their site, I can't find a hierarchy that would explain if they are under the Attorney Generals office or something else.

https://www.dir.ca.gov/

I do see that they are under the Labor & Workforce Development Agency, though.

https://www.dir.ca.gov/aboutdir.html

What does this mean for Kamala Harris? She likely had nothing to do with enforcement of the law and would have likely only been peripherally aware of a case had it gone to court, at best. Of course, that goes out the window if it's a high profile case, but I couldn't find any cases (at all) in the little time I took to look.

Because of the wording, searching for any cases brings up articles about neglect, abuse, and other related terms, rather than anything pertaining to the 2012 Law. With the results being so muddied, it would take a massive amount of time to sort out the cases of parental abuse and try to find a relevant case. On the other hand, if there was a major case, it would likely be a major scandal and be all over the news and also all over the searches. So, with as little evidence I can find of a major case, which would likely happen if it involved a major film producer, I'm going to say that Kamala probably wasn't involved in any way with enforcement of this law. I'll even go further to say that neither was her replacement.

Edit:

This has been slightly nagging on me since I wrote this Answer, so I'm going to try to rehash my thoughts again. The comment from fredsbend helped with my decision to do so.

So what I'm trying to say is that that the Attorney General or District Attorney likely wouldn't be out arresting people for committing a crime against this law. That would be up to the actual enforcement agency (whether it's the police or the Labor & Workforce Development Agency). The AG or DA might work to build a case against someone or a company, but they wouldn't be out there with handcuffs or zip-ties making the arrests.

In a high profile case, the AG or DA would likely be in the courtroom in a judicial manner, but prosecution is still not enforcement as most people would consider it.

After reading the Wikipedia entry on Law enforcement, it lists the courts as part of enforcement, so there's definitely an aspect of "enforcement" that can be laid at the feet of the AG and DA. At the same time, though, the meme implies that Kamala Harris should have been somehow directly involved with all cases relating to this law. Taken to an illogical extreme, that would also imply that Harris should also have been directly involved with enforcing all California laws, which is completely unrealistic.

In reality (rather than on TV, film, or books), an AG or DA needs to have a realistic reason to be involved in discovering who is breaking the law. They generally don't waste their time assuming that because a business hasn't registered in a database that they are breaking a law. If they hear about multiple, reasonable cases/reports about the same company or person they can start an investigation into that company or person, but they would still need to have a good and legal case made against that company or individual in order to have the people involved arrested and taken to court. This is expensive and time consuming, so it's likely not going to be done for every rumor or lack of permit.

Edit 2:

As fredsbend explicitly states in comments below, the investigation wouldn't be public. This would avoid slander or liable charges for defamation against a person or company. How many times do you hear something like "if they are being investigated, they are of course guilty"? That's just one reason to avoid the public knowing about the investigation. Another part is that on hearing about the investigation, those being investigated could change their behavior or otherwise work to obstruct the investigation. While this could lead to further charges against the person or company under investigation, it could also stall or completely negate the original investigation altogether.

Also, a judge would have to be involved to sign off on any warrants, arrests, and whatever else is needed to take evidence/property and people into custody. Again, this would likely be not public if the case and already gathered evidence weren't approved by the judge.

I could go further and make statements about judges being corrupt and not allow a case to be made, but that's making a lot of assumptions that aren't necessarily relevant or true. I'm simply bringing this up to state that even if Harris' office did investigate a case, they still may not have had the authority or permission to do something about it.

End Edits.

Conclusion

I'm going to say this claim is questionable, at minimum. The Tweet was posted August 2, 2020, so they are likely working with the same database as I just found, so they don't have the information pre-2019 of the new system, so they really don't know who was and wasn't registered.

Because of the few people who are registered on the site over a year after the new system has been implemented, I'd also say that there's few actual reasons for people to be registered. Or there's enough reasons to not be registered that people and businesses can easily/simply make sure that part of the law is complied with to not need the permit.

There's also not a direct line between this law & it's enforcement and the Attorney Generals office. With what I've found, there's little, if anything, that would involve Harris' office in a case, except for large amounts of political or media pressure. And with what I didn't find, there's little to no evidence that there's a high profile enough case for her office to have been involved.

CYA

I don't know everything and I didn't research everything. Also, I'm not a researcher of the media by profession, so I can't spend endless hours looking for evidence, so there may be information out there that contradicts my research. If you find it, please feel free to post your own answer. Arguing that I missed "obvious" data isn't productive.

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  • "First is the law it references. Which one?" The claim explicitly states it is the California law. Despite any other faults it may have, I actually don't know how it could have been clearer on that. – Paul Draper Aug 23 at 3:51

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