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
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.
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.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.
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.
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.