B-movie actress loses case against IMDB over revealing her age
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Friday 12 April 2013
A 41-year-old B-movie actress has lost her legal battle with the Internet Movie Database, which she claimed cost her acting work after it published her true age against her will.
IMDb.com lists the details of around 4m film and TV professionals, and is used regularly by Hollywood casting agents.
When Huong Hoang, who goes by the stage name Junie Hoang, first added her profile to the site, she listed her birth year as 1978, arguing that she usually plays characters younger than herself.
In 2008, however, as she approached her bogus 30th birthday, she signed up for the subscription version of the site, IMDb Pro, and decided she would rather no birthdate was recorded at all. She contacted IMDb to have it removed, but was shocked to learn that someone had added her true age to her profile. The site, she alleged, had taken information gleaned from the credit card she used to pay her subscription, “to scour public records databases and other sources” for her date of birth.
Ms Huang said the use of her personal data constituted a breach of contract, and that IMDb and its parent company, Amazon, were liable for her loss of income after casting directors discovered that she was older than she appeared. She first filed suit anonymously in 2011, demanding $1m (£650,000) in damages, and claiming, “If one is perceived to be ‘over the hill’, ie approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress… to get work.”
Her case had the backing of the Screen Actors Guild.
However, a judge forced Ms Huang to reveal her identity, and the case was reduced to the question of whether IMDb had broken its user agreement. The site’s lawyers argued that it had a First Amendment right to publish accurate information and branded Ms Hoang “selfish”, pointing to the fact that she, “did not present any testimony, documents, or other evidence supporting her damages allegations of lost income and profits.” After a two-day trial in Seattle, a federal jury agreed, finding that the site had not breached any legal obligations to the actress.
Ms Huang has featured in such films as My Big Phat Hip Hop Family, Hoodrats 2: Hoodrat Warriors, and Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver, a sequel to the 2005 horror-comedy Gingerdead Man, which, according to its description on IMDb.com, stars Gary Busey as “an evil yet adorable gingerbread man [who] comes to life with the soul of a convicted killer.”
After the verdict, she told the Associated Press, “My hope was that it would make a change in the database… I knew it was a problem not just for me but for anyone else who had their age on their profile.”
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