Actress Seeking $1 Million From IMDb For Publishing Her Real Age Was Pulling In Less Than $2000 A Year

from the what's-my-age-again? dept

Junie Hoang — the part-time actress who sued IMDb for revealing her true age — continues to fight her long-running court battle in the midst of a lost war. Hoang didn’t like the fact that IMDb posted her real age, claiming that exposing this fact limited her future acting options. (A look at her past acting credits would seem to indicate this ship sailed long ago, back when she was still an ageless beauty. If anything, it shows her career has been remarkably consistent in terms of number of roles, both pre-exposure and post.)

The war is already lost. Junie Hoang tried to sue anonymously, in the hope of protecting her future from the menace of her actual birthdate, but was shot down by the presiding judge. Now, the facts are completely public, and all Hoang has left to fight for is damages she feels she’s owed for IMDb’s scuttling of her blossoming career. She puts this number at $1 million. But as Venkat Balasubramani notes in his coverage of the oral arguments, Hoang seems to be greatly overestimating her losses.

Harry Schneider, IMDb’s lawyer, walked Hoang through her tax returns. Without coming out and saying it, he highlighted that Hoang didn’t make very much money from acting, and that she deducted a fair amount of expenses for the amount of money she made. For example, her acting income in 2010 was between $1000 and $2000, but she deducted amounts for hair and makeup ($987), shoes ($318.86) and miscellaneous expenses ($523). The implication was that Hoang’s acting was more of a hobby and less of a serious occupation.

Even granting Hoang the greater of the two figures ($2000) means the actress felt she had about 500 years of acting ahead of her, if only IMDb hadn’t sabotaged her bright and extremely long future.

Then there’s the apparent fact that Junie Hoang wanted the benefits of an IMDb pro account, but without having to follow the terms of use.

The most grueling part of the cross examination came when Schneider walked Hoang through the IMDb user agreement and its provisions where users promise to submit accurate information.

The attorney pointed Hoang’s attention to various ways she had made some artifice — submitting an incorrect birthdate initially (she entered in text indicating that she had a supporting birth certificate), entering information through accounts other than her own (despite prohibitions in the user agreement against sharing passwords and accounts), attempting to convince IMDb’s customer service that someone else submitted the original date of birth information, and finally, sending over a fake passport image and a fake ID.

In the end, Hoang threw up her arms and admitted she did indeed submit inaccurate information, particularly when she was trying to get the birthdate deleted because she was at wit’s end.

Here’s the thing: the Internet is terrible at keeping secrets. If you want the widespread exposure that a dominant Hollywood-oriented website provides, you have to accept the fact that attempting to disguise your real age is never going to work. Hoang’s argument centers on some shady investigative work done by IMDb customer service — possibly involving the use of a background check service to gather more info on Hoang based on what IMDb knew and the actress’ submitted credit card number.

As for the claims of lost future earnings, even Hoang’s own witness — her agent, Joe Kolkowitz — was unable to provide verification that Hoang’s earning power had decreased after IMDb’s publication of her real age.

Kolkowitz testified that a variety of factors influence decisions on whether to hire an actor. Talent is a big part of the decision, he said. He also admitted that he only learned about Hoang’s date of birth through this lawsuit (and not through IMDb) and he was unable to definitively state that the disclosure of her age resulted in a reduced number of acting jobs. Finally, Kolkowitz also admitted that he couldn’t say for certain that she had received fewer auditions, and added that he had “no knowledge regarding monetary loss from loss of roles.”

As Balasubramani sums up the day’s activities, based on the arguments heard today, Hoang comes across less as a victim of unwanted disclosure than simply a “disgruntled customer” — albeit one willing to pursue this Quixotic legal battle until all options have been expended.

While there does appear to be a hint of ageism in Hollywood, it’s pretty tough to pin down how much each passing birthday costs an actress. And that seemingly apparent desire for young women only is far from a foregone conclusion. Even if IMDb’s publication of Hoang’s true age did cost her some future roles, it would appear from her resume and yearly earnings that it didn’t cost her much — at least nowhere near the $1 million she continues to seek.

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Companies: amazon, imdb

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Comments on “Actress Seeking $1 Million From IMDb For Publishing Her Real Age Was Pulling In Less Than $2000 A Year”

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50 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m sure lots of us could come up with lots of actresses who got steady work through their 40s.

One of my personal favorite not-a-big-star actresses is Kim Dickens, who’s 49 or 50 now, and has worked steadily for the last decade. She might not have had anything quite as good as her role in “Deadwood” (as Joanie Stubbs) when she was younger, but between new performances and residuals, I suspect she’s making an OK living at acting.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

Harry Schneider, IMDb’s lawyer, walked Hoang through her tax returns. Without coming out and saying it, he highlighted that Hoang didn’t make very much money from acting, and that she deducted a fair amount of expenses for the amount of money she made. For example, her acting income in 2010 was between $1000 and $2000, but she deducted amounts for hair and makeup ($987), shoes ($318.86) and miscellaneous expenses ($523). The implication was that Hoang’s acting was more of a hobby and less of a serious occupation.

And that is the death of her damages claim right there

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Most actors don’t make a living wage. Here’s some BLS stats from 2011 (quote from here):

Actors averaged a mean $33.82 per hour in 2011, according to the BLS. The lowest-paid 10 percent made $8.79 hourly, and the highest-paid 10 percent earned over $90 hourly. Most worked in the motion picture and video industries to make a mean hourly $43.33. However, independent actors made the highest average pay at $45.39 per hour. Other typical employers and average salaries were performing arts companies, which offered $21.15 per hour, television broadcasting with $24.84 hourly and radio broadcasting with $24.83 per hour.

$33.82 sounds like reasonable pay, but that’s the hourly rate. Almost no actors work full time, and almost all actors will take unpaid roles in order to increase their overall exposure. If we assume that Hoang is in the bottom 10% at $8/hr, it’s not too hard to see how she might only bring in a couple grand per year.

Anonymous Coward says:

I dont like the way she’s gone about, but i dont think its unreasonable for imdb to put “withheld by request” feature, requested by the actual person in question………..they shouldnt be able to falsify, and those who CHOOSE the public attention should go into it knowing what their getting involved in……ideally, they dont, and strive for things more important, like you know having a concience, some empathy, generally caring enough beyond their shallow-ness to be famous or greedy for as little effort………im sure their are good ones though

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

but i dont think its unreasonable for imdb to put “withheld by request” feature, requested by the actual person in question

It wouldn’t be unreasonable for them to do this, but it’s also not unreasonable for them to publish ages, even without permission.

A person’s age is a public record, because their birth certificate is a public record, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I dont like the way she’s gone about, but i dont think its unreasonable for imdb to put “withheld by request” feature, “

Date of birth is a verifiable fact. Any number of people (parents but also others) may actually know her DOB. So if they (say her mother or a family friend) put her DOB on a website and IMDB picked it up there, or a relative posted it, you suggest she sues her mother, relative or friend?

Dates of birth, marriage, death are facts available to the public and to data brokers (ie it’s for sale). I might like to keep my age a secret but I know I can’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

She’s not wrong about what she essentially saying/implying about hollywood, knowingly or not, but i have no sympathy for someone who claims that she’s doing this for other actors while also asking for money……or the worse thing still, advertising, what seems obliviously to her fans should she have any, that lieing is ok ……..we already have an abundance of amoral role models

s7 says:

Google Search

I love that when you do a Google search for her name it brings up a sidebar with images of her, and immediately below that….

Junie Hoang
Actress
Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al. is a lawsuit brought by actress Junie Hoang in October 2011 against IMDb.com and its parent company Amazon.com for revealing her true date of birth, which she said opened her up to age discrimination. Wikipedia
Born: July 16, 1971 (age 43), Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Then, and only then, covers of B-movies she’s been in.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

I just looked at her IMDB page and she is a fairly attractive woman. I do wonder how recent most of those photos are. This lawsuit has damaged any future career she may have had far more than her true age being known. Now when she auditions the casting crew are going to be thinking “hey, isn’t this the crazy bitch that sued IMDB for a million dollars?”

I tried an internet dating site and I realized when I met this one woman that the photos she sent me had to have been at least 10 years ago. Could she face CFAA charges now?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Agism

I work in the software industry, which is probably second only to Hollywood in terms of ageism (although I think it might be worse). Agism is a real and serious problem that I am sympathetic to.

However, just because you work in an industry that has an agism problem doesn’t mean that anyone else has to restrict what they say because of that. Is it terrible that my own age limits my opportunities in the field? Yes. Would it be OK for me try to sue anyone for correctly reporting my age? Absolutely not.

Foreign Contributor says:

...

IMDb was the first website to correct autralian actress Rebel Wilson’s birth date (the proof is still online, a few local paper’s reports). Now Wikipedia has her birthdate and blah blah blah.
If the actress’ date of birth was inaccurate, must be corrected. If there’s no birthdate, leave it alone.

I don’t get this Hoang woman, anyways.

John Carmichael says:

More Misinformation

In search of the most salacious gossip angle, the media has consistently and deliberately misrepresented what this lawsuit was about: internet privacy and Age Discrimination. On principle, Hoang gave up her anonymity, and due to her attorney’s illnesses and death, had to go to trial unable to prove damages because he did nothing to build that part of her case. Inaccurate articles like this one keep trying to make her out as greedy, but somehow FAIL to mention that Hoang still went to trial though the most she could have won was probably her $99 subscription back. No $1M payday. After years of expensive litigation, she spent hundreds of thousands, if not a million dollars in legal fees, but stood to gain almost NOTHING but to help level the playing field for thousands of other actors whose birthdates harm their chances of working. This article also mentions a “hint” of Ageism in Hollywood, apparently ignorant that TV writers won a $70 MILLION settlement for exactly that — the largest settlement in the history of Age Discrimination litigation. Ageism runs RAMPANT through Hollywood. And notice that all references to actresses working after 40 are character actresses — not ingenues. When the world knows an actress whose looks put her in the ingenue category is 40 or older, forget it. They’ll assume she no longer looks like her pictures and won’t audition her. And her agent? He has no reason to go to her IMDB profile — he already has head shot and resume to send out. He had no reason to go to her IMDB profile, but everyone he sent her info to DID. And “unable to prove she lost jobs due to age”? Of course! when someone illegally discriminates against a prospective employee due to age, do they tell you? No. No one will EVER admit that. The obvious negative slant of this article, dripping with sarcasm and inaccuracies about Hoang and the facts, smacks of a plant by IMDB, or a pseudo-journalist trying to curry favor with Amazon, IMDB’s parent company. This is Yellow Journalism at its worst.

monochromespaghetti (profile) says:

Re: More Misinformation

I strongly disagree with that. She clearly couldn’t prove damages anyway because it was shown her income didn’t substantially decrease.

You say no $1m payday as though she was just suing to get her subscription fee back. She is suing for $1m and you are for some reason equating the frivolousness of the lawsuit with it being for some noble cause.

If there is age discrimination in Hollywood then why is she suing IMDb for publishing information they have every right to release? Surely she should be suing the companies with discriminatory auditioning practices.

As for her agent having no reason to look at her IMDb profile – that’s total hogwash. If prospective employers will be looking at it then it’s the agent’s job to look at the profile and ensure it portrays their client well whilst still being accurate.

It’s pretty clear here that this is not some grand statement about age discrimination and is really just an absurd money grab.

John Carmichael says:

Monochromespaghetti

Why would both SAG/AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America, with over 130,000 members combined, support a “frivolous” lawsuit? Have you read their Amici Brief? Why did over 5000 actors sign a petition to have IMDB remove birthdates? Because this is an incredibly important issue to EVERYONE in Hollywood, and to anyone else who values their Constitutionally-protected privacy.

Per ADEA, it’s ILLEGAL for a prospective employer to ask your age, but IMDB posts it so employers can, and do, discriminate. Does IMDB have a “right” to do an end-run around employment law and facilitate Age Discrimination? What does an actor’s age have to do with their credits, experience, or acting ability? Nothing. In a town obsessed with youth, birthdates can only harm them.

Homeownership is public information. Do I have the “right” to research and publish the home addresses of criminal prosecutors, and when they are murdered by the relatives of criminals they convict, hide behind the First Amendment? Clearly you haven’t thought about the implications of corporations publishing private citizens’ information, for profit, when it can harm them. Not all speech is “free.” And — Hoang’s birthdate was NOT public, anywhere, before IMDB made it so.

IMDB invaded Hoang’s contractually private credit card information to get her real name, then hired Private Eye.com to illegally hack her birthdate from another source, in violation of their own user agreement. If this is their “right,” every web vendor can chuck the privacy clause, then misuse and publish your private data. No one, IMDB included, has the right to use data you give them under the proviso of privacy, or to illegally obtain other personal information and publish it. Period.

This is a landmark lawsuit, about internet privacy and Ageism, from which everyone who engages the services of online vendors or is subjected to Ageism stands to benefit. If you knew the facts of the case, you’d know Hoang went to trial though she would be unable to recoup even a fraction of her legal fees. But hacks like you keep trying to say this is “about the money,” ignoring the facts which loudly speak otherwise, and that all of Hollywood is behind her.

IMDB published her birthdate 8 years ago, when she looked like she was in her early to mid-20s, a prime age for ingenues. She didn’t need to prove her income went DOWN; it never went UP because she was suddenly seen as “too old” for the roles she was suited for. But you would know this if you had heard her lawyer make this case at the Oral Arguments, which are still up on the 9th Circuit’s YouTube channel.

You are either completely uninformed of the facts of the lawsuit but want to snark anyway, or a shill for IMDB. Or, possibly, the writer of this article trying to defend a mean-spirited, badly-written, dishonest hack job.

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