Sorry, Having IMDB Accurately List Your Age Doesn't Entitle You To A Million Dollars

from the be-careful-what-you-ask-for... dept

Junie Hoang has lost her lawsuit against IMDb. She sued the online database for "breach of contract" after it replaced her fake birthdate (1978) with her real one (1971). The case had a few twists and turns, most of them "wrong ways" and "dead ends."

Claiming the posting of her real birthdate to be an invasion of privacy, Hoang first pursued this suit anonymously for fear of being tossed aside by Hollywood's ageist tendencies. Unfortunately for Hoang, Judge Marsha J. Peschman told her she'd have to reveal her name to proceed with the lawsuit, finding Hoang's worries of industry blacklisting not sufficient enough to justify continued anonymity.

Now, while Hoang claimed revealing her birthdate was an invasion of privacy, she sued IMDb for breach of contract. Here's how this all went down.

Hoang signed up for a subscription service with the website called IMDb Pro... She said she initially listed a false birth year - 1978, instead of 1971 - because she usually plays characters younger than she is.

But eventually, she moved from her hometown of Houston, Texas, to the more competitive entertainment market of Los Angeles, and as what would have been her fake 30th birthday approached, she decided she didn't want any age listed on her profile.

IMDb refused to remove the age listed unless she could provide evidence that it was incorrect. She asked the company to check its records to see if it had any information that would substantiate that age.

The company did so - using her account information to find her real name, and then using her real name to conduct a public records search and discover her true age. IMDb posted her real age on her profile, over her objections.
In essence, Hoang sued IMDb for doing exactly what she asked it to do -- verify her age. She claimed this investigative work violated IMDb's privacy policy. IMDb disagreed with this assessment (along with pretty much every other claim), stating the privacy policy is in place to protect actors' contact info -- not their date of birth, and that listing the date of birth was its First Amendment right.

Hoang was seeking $1 million in damages for harm done to her career by having her real age outed. The jury was not convinced by Hoang's less-than-stellar case, as IMDb noted in its post-trial filing.
“Hoang did not present any testimony, documents, or other evidence supporting her damages allegations of lost income and profits. Neither Hoang nor her agent Joe Kolkowitz—her only two witnesses on damages—offered any testimony about future damages, and neither offered competent testimony on which a reasonable jury could base an award of damages for acting jobs allegedly lost to date.”
Perhaps her career to date made it difficult to prove a tremendous upside was being destroyed by IMDb's callous recordkeeping. As was noted earlier here at Techdirt, she has made an appearance in Penn & Teller's Bullshit! This is in addition to roles in Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver and Hoodrats 2: Hoodrat Warriors.

Of course, it isn't over until the last appeal has been exhausted and Hoang announced (pretty much as soon as the verdict was read) she will be appealing the decision. She still believes it's unfair that IMDb lists birth dates for actors and actresses and makes it harder for those of a certain age to land roles. She points out that it's illegal for employers to ask interviewees how old they are, but IMDb's listings save those in casting the trouble of skirting the law.

Whether or not another court will find this argument worth $1 million remains to be seen, especially considering Hoang's career arc to this point. She and her agent didn't seem to be too persuasive the first time around and unless they've got something more compelling than "Hollywood is ageist," this appeal will likely fail.



Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Akari Mizunashi (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 6:18am

    Perhaps I'm confused, but Haong isn't ticked off at IMDB for investigating her real age, but then turning and posting the information on her page once it was discovered to be accurate than the info currently being displayed.

    Normally, I would agree with her, but in this case, I can't. IMDB is used by everyone, including businesses looking for actors, and to lie on the page is no different than lying on a resume.

    While it may be true one isn't asked for their age, they most certainly are asked on their job application.

    If she's been lying on these job applications, she may very well be in for more trouble than she anticipated.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:08am

    It's a wonder she is not charged with fraud for giving a false d.o.b.

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:08am

    She is just a typical woman who lies about her age and throws a wobbly when someone points out her real one.

    That is not lawsuit worthy. If it were the courts would be clogged up with such rubbish.

     

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  4.  
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    Lord Binky, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:08am

    Re:

    Not really. The fake age matches what is on her driver's licence so they'd never know it was wrong. oh wait...

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:10am

    "While it may be true one isn't asked for their age, they most certainly are asked on their job application."

    No, they are not. It would be, in most cases, illegal to do so.

     

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  6.  
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    Crashoverride (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:10am

    I thought it was interesting that she spent almost as much as she made on things like makeup and shoes.... Acting sounds more like a hobby than a career.

    Kind of hard to sue for damages when when she couldn't show she was making much if anything prior to the real age issue.

     

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  7.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    Re:

    They are asked for DOB from which one can work out age.

     

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  8.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:11am

    I am more interested in seeing the blockbuster of hers...Z: A Zombie Musical. That is obviously where she made all her money.

     

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  9.  
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    Lord Binky, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    Re:

    Only by removing all other possibilities for not being picked for roles could she accept that she may need to improve her acting skills. At least that was the intent before the never ending loop of questioning the quality of the lies and if people were finding out the truth anyways.

     

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  10.  
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    Scote, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    Did she expect them to confirm her fake birthday?

    From the TD write up it sounds like she asked IMDB to investigate under the assumption that they would evidence on line "confirming" her fake date.

    If she were to win it would be effectively illegal to post true information about public figures on-line, in books, movies, tv or in magazines.

    It sucks that Hollywood is ageist. But it is ironic that she wants to be judge on her *appearance* rather than her age. That is, she thinks lookism is good and agism is bad because she is lucky enough to be attractive and young looking for her age. And if actors kept their IMDB headshots accurate and current casting directors probably wouldn't be as interested in the age listing. As it is I expect they call in people with young looking head shots only to find the shots are 10 years old and taken from just the right angle and in just the right lighting to make them seem younger and better looking than they are.

    It is a bit ironic for people to be talking about how age discrimination is illegal in employment when they talk about casting actors. Movie and TV casting gets a bit of a free pass on things that are normally illegal. Movies are cast based on all sorts of discrimination based on protected classes, including gender and race. So it is unclear to me whether agism is illegal for casting agents or not. I'm guessing more not illegal than illegal.

     

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    Berenerd (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re:

    Plus SSN, when an employer gets back their background check and SSN info, their age is posted right on it.

     

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    Anonymouse, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:14am

    Does it really matter how old she REALLY is? When it comes down to choosing actors/actresses for a role, don't they typically cast based on what age the actor/actress 'looks'?

     

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    Lord Binky, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:18am

    Re: Did she expect them to confirm her fake birthday?

    I think the intent is really that the resume is thrown out by the age number without ever seeing the person, such that they have the opportunity to fit a part based on appearances and allowing for any investments in plastic surgery to assist their chances. They just want a greater chance to be 'seen' before being thrown to the curb.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:19am

    Today I learned that there is not one but TWO sequels to The Gingerdead Man. I need to get to a video store, stat.

    No, seriously - go watch the first Gingerdead Man movie. It's an hour and a half of Gary Busey being completely insane. I get the feeling they didn't even give him a script, they just had him rant into a microphone for a while and then dubbed it over the titular cookie-killer in post production.

     

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  15. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:20am

    Okay; at least sweep QUICKLY on to the next anomaly.

    While ignoring -- well, practically all else. Anything on Drudge Report is weightier. Techdirt isn't just a plain walled garden, but more of a vacuum chamber.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:21am

    if keeping her age secret is so important, perhaps a different career was in order? or maybe she just likes to date toyboys, without them realising that's what they are?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:21am

    Re: Okay; at least sweep QUICKLY on to the next anomaly.

    It wouldn't be a vacuum chamber if you didn't suck so much and so consistently.

     

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  18.  
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    Scote, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:21am

    Age vs. Looks

    I hope some casting agents can comment in this thread but I'd venture to say that while people are cast on their looks that casting directors looking peoples photos up on IMDB take actors self-posted with a grain of salt and let the posted ages give them some context. I'd say its a fair bet that most people look younger in their photos than they do in person, and I bet that is even true of Junie Hoang, who looks younger than her age, but probably not younger than her head shots.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymouse, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:22am

    Re: Okay; at least sweep QUICKLY on to the next anomaly.

    Flagged for being useless praddle... wtf are you on about now?

     

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  20.  
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    Some Other AC (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re:

    Ahhh...but there is the crux of this crappy suit. She was already lying here most likely and posting her DOB to match listing on IMDB. Now...once the SSN is given and linked to Tax documents and background checks, she would still be linked to her correct age, but if she is working for shady ass, two bit B rated productions, they may be paying under the table as well.
    I think it would be absolutely hilarious if her financials were investigated for tax evasion/fraud.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:25am

    I just went to her IMDb page, and it's obvious why she did not land rolls.

    She looks like Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa's transvestite twin.

     

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  22.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:26am

    Re:

    Did she violate the CFAA and 'hack' IMDb?

     

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  23.  
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    Scote, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:27am

    Re: Did she expect them to confirm her fake birthday?

    ...and I think that is a legitimate desire on the part of actors. And casting directors want to waste less of their time seeing people who aren't right for the part.

    I'm not really sure who to support in this, which should we support, lookism or ageism? I want to be against ageism, but I don't really want to be saying "Yes, judge her on her **appearance**, damn you!" either.

     

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  24.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:32am

    I love lamp

     

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  25.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:39am

    Re: Okay; at least sweep QUICKLY on to the next anomaly.

    Ahh, the wonders of a digital medium. It's quite possible to report on something this silly AND all the more important stuff as well. Awesome, right?

     

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  26.  
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    WysiWyg (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:41am

    7 years!?

    When I first heard about this lawsuit I got the impression that the difference between her real age and her stated age was closer to 15-20 years. While I can understand wanting to pretend to be under 30 for a while longer, by now those 7 years can't make that much difference, can they?

     

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  27.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re: Okay; at least sweep QUICKLY on to the next anomaly.

    It's just little boy Blue yapping and snapping at ankles again.

    Down Blue! Bad troll!

     

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  28.  
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    kog999, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:43am

    I wonder if IMDB has anything in their terms of service that says information provided must be accurate. If so they should have her thrown in jail for a couple of years for exceeding authorized access.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    Re:

    under CISPA, when Congress are stupid enough to bring it in, removing even more freedom and privacy from 'the people', she probably will be!

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Okay; at least sweep QUICKLY on to the next anomaly.

    The best part? It doesn't even come close to being an anomaly about anything. It's proof positive that he's not here to contribute, unless you consider taking a dump as contribution.

     

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  31.  
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    Arlo Lurker, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:01am

    Employment Law

    Ugh...it always drives me up a wall when I see this. In the US at least, it is NOT illegal to ask a job applicant for their age, or their marital status, or whether or not they have kids, etc.

    Because it would be very illegal to make a hiring decision based on any of these things, however, most businesses are savvy enough to not ask.

     

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  32.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:01am

    Since when ????

    “Hoang did not present any testimony, documents, or other evidence supporting her damages allegations of lost income and profits. Neither Hoang nor her agent Joe Kolkowitz—her only two witnesses on damages—offered any testimony about future damages, and neither offered competent testimony on which a reasonable jury could base an award of damages for acting jobs allegedly lost to date.”


    Since when does Hollywood require actual proof of loss or damages????

    Seems like Ms Hoang should have classified her birthdate as IP and then sued for copyright infringement.

     

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  33.  
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    Scote, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:05am

    Re: Employment Law

    In other words, it is effectively illegal because there is no proper purpose in asking them, and only someone ignorant or malicious would do so.

     

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  34.  
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    Arlo Lurker, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re: Employment Law

    Ehhh...I suppose you could make that argument. I guess I'm being a little too pedantic. Just a pet peeve of mine. :(

     

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  35.  
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    avideogameplayer, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:11am

    This is Hollywood...

    Who gives a shit except Hollywood?

     

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  36.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:19am

    This is bad because Amazon!
    This is bad because IMDB!
    This is bad because I'm not getting work!
    This is bad because people with deep pockets owe me more!
    Maybe she just needs a better agent?

    This is endemic of the problem we keep seeing where people refuse to accept responsibilities for their own actions.
    She posted a fake age.
    She thought her fake age was getting to high and wanted them to change how they operate to please her.
    Because they refused to do what she wanted, they obviously owed her money.
    Because all of the misfortunes this event caused were totally everyone elses fault.

    If she was so upset by her age why did she ever enter one?

     

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  37.  
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    Phillip (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:33am

    Re:

    They can't ask your age on an application. Which is the only part of this that makes some sense. But she created the mess that she is in.

     

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  38.  
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    Dirkmaster (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:54am

    She really hasn't got a prayer

    I just looked at her evil IMBD entry. The VAST majority of her work has been VOICE WORK. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but her case of ageism is SERIOUSLY weakened when the part only requires your vocal chords.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 9:57am

    Re: Okay; at least sweep QUICKLY on to the next anomaly.

    When using words, it helps to know what they mean. Get help.

     

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  40.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: Employment Law

    But it's not effectively illegal. As another commenter pointed out, all employers do ask a question that is effectively the same as asking your age. They ask for your date of birth.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 10:05am

    Can't tell if using or being owned by Ms Streisand.

     

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  42.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re: Employment Law

    It's not that only 'ignorant or malicious' people would ask that during an interview(they could just be making small talk), it's that if they do ask for that information, at all, and don't hire the person afterwards it opens them up to the possibility of being sued, as the person who didn't get hired could argue(successfully or not) that the decision not to hire was based upon that, rather than whatever the reason actually was.

    So it's not illegal to ask for that information, or even effectively illegal, but rather just practicality to not do so.

     

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  43.  
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    Joe, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    I think the real issue here is how they sourced the data. They got it from her application form correct? Does that give them the right to publish that information? Isn't there a default assumption of privacy when you fill out an application that it is between you and the other party? When she asked them to verify her age, was that also giving implicit permission to publish what they found? She doesn't seem to think so.

    What if the actor in question here was a porn star (note - Ms Hoang is in no way a porn star) and they published her real name using information from an IMDB Pro application. After doing so, there were negative consequences - stalker, family troubles or an 'honour' killing. Would IMDB be liable in any way?

    Obviously the million dollar damages is silly, Ms Hoang has acted in some trashy movies, women lie about their age, Hollywood is ageist, etc. But I think those are unfortunately covering up the really interesting questions being raised here.

     

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  44.  
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    Jesse (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 10:48am

    Lying about her age online? She's a hacker! 35 years in jail.

     

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  45.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 10:55am

    Re:

    That was a pretty sexist remark.

     

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  46.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 11:07am

    Re: Re: Did she expect them to confirm her fake birthday?

    > I don't really want to be saying "Yes, judge
    > her on her **appearance**, damn you!" either.

    Why not? Television and movies are a visual medium and appearance is a valid criteria for choosing an actor to play a role.

    When Spielberg cast LINCOLN do you think he considered pudgy, short Asian guys or only focused on tall, skinny white guys?

    When they were casting for the new Jackie Robinson film 42, how much you want to bet only athletic-looking black guys were considered? White guys, Asians, Hispanics, women need not apply, no matter how talented they are at acting.

    How an actor looks is as important to most roles as how well they act.

     

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  47.  
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    tomxp411 (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 12:41pm

    Re:

    The entire cast of Beverly Hills 90210 says "you're right."

    They were all fully-grown adults playing teenagers.

     

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  48.  
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    tomxp411 (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 1:10pm

    Re: She really hasn't got a prayer

    Exactly. Because no one over 30 gets work in Hollywood.

    Amanda Tapping din't get hired to play a soldier at 32 years old, a doctor at 42, and an angel at 47.

    Lucy Lawless didn't turn 30 during the filming of a show all about two hot women who spend all their time together and totally aren't gay. Neither did she turn 40 during the filming of a groundbreaking sci-fi series.

    Gina Torres didn't star on Suits, a show all about pretty, young lawyers (and one older, ugly one that is not Gina Torres) at 40 years old.

    And certainly, in no universe ever, did a 46 year old Marion Ross star in the premier of a show that would become one of the most well loved television shows of all times. Happy Days are definitely yours and mine when Mrs. C is cooking dinner.

    Obviously Hollywood doesn't hire actresses over 30, and this woman has been seriously wronged. Or something.

     

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  49.  
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    Amber, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 1:45pm

    Not Really Lying

    Everyone is bashing her for not telling the truth about her age and calling her a liar. This is not lying, folks. This is misinformation to protect her privacy -- big difference. What, are you all black and white thinkers here? Is there no one who can understand nuanced ideas, like what defines deceit vs. what is factually true? Since this was told to those who really don't have a right or a good reason to know her age (curiosity is not a good reason), it's perfectly fine for her to give an inaccurate number. That's not deceitful; it's called protecting your privacy. They should have honored her request to keep that information private. It's her information, and she should have some control over it. I give misinformation all the time to those entities that have no valid right to my private stats. And Amber is not my real name. Does this make me a liar? Hell no. Deceit by definition means either intent to cause harm or disregarding the potential harm caused to another. There is no harm to anyone but her in this untruth. Sometimes not telling the truth is the best and most moral thing to do.

     

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  50.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Not Really Lying

    Everyone is bashing her for not telling the truth about her age and calling her a liar. This is not lying, folks.

    Not telling the truth is called lying.

    This is misinformation to protect her privacy -- big difference.

    Your age is not private information.

    I give misinformation all the time to those entities that have no valid right to my private stats. And Amber is not my real name. Does this make me a liar? Hell no

    Yes, actually it does. That doesn't mean it's *bad* but it does mean that you lied.

    There is no harm to anyone but her in this untruth.

    Perhaps. Doesn't change that it's a lie. And has no impact on the legal argument.

    Sometimes not telling the truth is the best and most moral thing to do.

    Sure. But that's got nothing to do with anything in this case, so not sure why you'd even bring it up.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 5:38pm

    How can you possibly expect Hollywood to suppress its burning desire to learn your age !!

    Maybe jockeys can conceal their weight, too - just see how the horse runs, that's the acid test. No proxies, please.

    Or you could sue a john for gender discrimination if he won't...but he won't, will he, unless it's exactly that what he's there for.

    Plus, don't employers need your age for legal paperwork? Do you keep your identity data private until you're hired?

    And universities ask your race -- constantly, even during the application process -- pretty much to *avoid* discrimination by tracking enough statistics.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 5:48pm

    Re: Re: Not Really Lying

    This is misinformation to protect her privacy -- big difference.

    >Your age is not private information.

    Is there even a definition of private information? I would think anything you want to keep private, you have a right to try, whereas anything that anyone finds out, they have a right to publish -- absent an agreement between the parties or specific law about certain kinds of information. (There are a lot of those, though.)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 5:54pm

    Re:

    Or recall the discrimination case where a person from a different religion wanted to work in a church, or synagogue, or something. Can't remember as what, though.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 7:47pm

    I can barely read the comments for my annoyance with you people...

    Why in heaven's name did the douches at IMDB feel they had to post this person's age when she didn't want them to? What skin off their nose was it to simply not have an age for her? Why didn't they NOT post her age simply because she asked them to not post her age? WTF? When did fucking IMDB turn into the fucking Truth Police? If she wanted another or no age on her bio, why couldn't they just put another age on the damned page? JUST BECAUSE THAT WAS WHAT SHE WANTED AND ASKED THEM TO DO? Because who really fucking cares what age is on there, except the person whose age is on there?

    I wonder if they laughed at her impotent rage. Bet it was a fucking hoot to them. Thanks a lot, guys, now I hate IMDB.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:11pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, they can in one specific case. If the role would require on-camera acts that would be illegal to film a minor performing, then they can ask about age and make providing proof of age a condition of employment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    If the role would require on-camera acts that would be illegal to film a minor performing, then they can ask about age and make providing proof of age a condition of employment.

    I assume in that case they could only ask "are you at least [age of consent]?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Apr 16th, 2013 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Not Really Lying

    Is there even a definition of private information?

    The question is, is invasion of privacy even an actionable offense when committed by a private party (not a government)? If IMDB didn't commit any illegal act to get the information (fraud, trespass, unauthorized computer access), and the information is true, is there any way they can be liable for revealing the information publicly?

    If my neighbor tells me a secret and I blog about it, is there any scenario under which I could be found liable and have to pay damages?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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