A federal jury in Seattle has rejected an actress’ claim that IMDb breached a contract with her by posting her age on the site and refusing to remove it at her request.
Junie Hoang had claimed that IMDb breached subscriber and privacy agreements by using information that she provided when subscribing to IMDbPro to discern her true age in public records. Her case drew the attention of the Screen Actors Guild and other orgs that have pressed IMDb to limit its posting of birthdates at a time when many performers face age discrimination.
Hoang, whose real name is Huong Hoang, first signed up for IMDb in 2001, but left her age blank. In 2004, she used a friend’s account to submit a 1978 date of birth, even though she was actually born in 1971. In 2007, she decided that she wanted the false birth date to be removed, and repeatedly contacted the database, asking that it be taken off her page. Yet even after she sent them documents, including a fake Texas ID, showing that the birth date was wrong, they did not remove the 1978 date from her profile.
In 2008, she sent IMDb an e-mail asking them to please “go back to your files and see if you have any documentation, verification or identification that my birthdate is in 1978.” After searching through their records, a customer service manager found her real name and used that to find her correct birth date in public records, and published it online.
The jury started deliberating on Wednesday.
IMDb.com argued that she had failed to prove that she was harmed by the posting of her true age, noting in a court filing on Wednesday that she “merely speculated” about lost acting income and “at best, Hoang contends that unrelated parties have refused to give her acting opportunities because IMDb exercised its First Amendment right to publish truthful and accurate information.”
Update: Hoang expressed disappointment in the verdict, and said that she will be making a decision soon on an appeal. But she does not regret pursuing the case. “When I filed this lawsuit, some people asked me, ‘Why go rattle a hornet’s nest?’” she said. “I saw an opportunity to make a difference, to make a change.” Although a lot of attention in the case has focused on issues of ageism in the industry, she also cited concerns about privacy and consumer protection. She noted that IMBd’s posting of birthdates continues to be an issue for the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America. “It is like the pink elephant in the room. Everyone knows it is there.”