Posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 by Angie Han
You may recall that sometime last month, an anonymous actress filed a lawsuit against Amazon.com subsidiary IMDb for posting her true age and legal name on her profile. The plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe, charged that the site had damaged her career by revealing information she’d been careful to hide lest casting directors reject her for being too old.
Now the movie site has responded, and as you might expect, they aren’t happy. IMDb has filed a motion to dismiss the case, blasting the actress as “selfish” and the case as “frivolous.” Ironically, the site — which the plaintiff has accused of fraud, among other things — argues in its statement that the actress herself is attempting to perpetuate fraud. More details after the jump.
Jane Doe originally sued the company for “breach of contract, fraud, and violation of privacy,” demanding over $1 million in damages plus a restraining order. In her complaint, the actress stated that she had “suffered a substantial decrease in acting credits, employment opportunities and earnings since Defendants’ addition of Plaintiff’s legal date of birth to the Internet Movie Database,” owing to the “youth is king” attitude prevalent in Hollywood. The plaintiff alleged that IMDb obtained her information when she used her credit card to sign up for an IMDb Pro account, and that the site then posted her legal name and birth date without her permission.
IMDb, for its part, filed a motion last week to dismiss the case unless the woman reveals herself. For one thing, it claims, it’s not just in the legal right, but in the moral right to not not aid the actress in “[deceiving] the public and prospective employers about her age.” Argues the database (via The Hollywood Reporter):
Truth and justice are philosophical pillars of this Court. The perpetuation of fraud, even for an actor’s career, is inconsistent with these principals. Plaintiff’s attempt to manipulate the federal court system so she can censor iMDb’s display of her birth date and pretend to the world that she is not 40 years old is selfish, contrary to the public interest and a frivolous abuse of this Court’s resources.”
On a more practical level, the site also argues that allowing the actress to remain anonymous puts IMDb at a disadvantage, as it “cannot fairly defend against the Complaint in this case with the identity of the plaintiff secreted.” Plaintiffs in the 9th Circuit are allowed to keep their identities hidden in cases where the plaintiffs might suffer from “harassment, injury, ridicule or personal embarrassment” if they are revealed. However, IMDb believes that plaintiff’s anonymity is not justified in this case.
Not that IMDb is completely in the dark about the mystery actress’ identity — the site actually says it is “confident” it knows who she is, though it cannot be totally certain unless the woman comes forward. If she is in fact who the site suspects, the current lawsuit is the latest in a years-long dispute between her and the site. Three years ago, the actress attempted to have her birthdate changed by sending copies of her birth certificate and passport to the IMDb offices, but as certain information redacted, IMDb refused to make the changes. The same individual then sent another letter this past May through a new lawyer, threatening a class action lawsuit. IMDb ignored the warning.
The actress’ initial lawsuit sparked talks between IMDb and various acting guilds including SAG and AFTRA, with the guilds arguing that IMDb had “a moral and legal obligation not to facilitate age discrimination in employment,” and calling for the site to change its policies. However, those conversations broke down, with the guilds condemning IMDb for facilitating age-based discrimination. As far as we know, nothing has changed at IMDb.