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Landmark Lawsuit about Ageism in Hollywood Rejected by Jury

April 15, 2013

Huong Hoang is the Asian-American actress from Texas who filed a lawsuit with the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) initially in 2011 for over one million dollars. According to her suit, the company posted her actual date of birth against her wishes on her IMDb Pro subscription service. She is now 42, but because she has maintained a youthful appearance and tries to pass for younger roles, she filled out her IMDb page claiming to be years younger. Her case has sparked a hot debate over the prevalence and consequences of ageism in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Hoang’s lawsuit claimed:

“In the entertainment, youth is king. If one is perceived to be ‘over the hill,’ i.e., approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress, such as the Plaintiff, to get work as she is thought to have less of an ‘upside,’ therefore, casting directors, producers, directors, agent/managers, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance or talent.”

Many actors were glad to have this issue discussed publicly–an issue that affects so many in the acting field. Even SAG and AFTRA came forward to condemn IMDb for its policy on the matter, insisting IMDb was morally obligated to refrain from discrimination in the realm of actor employment.

In response to the suit, IMDb filed for a motion to dismiss the case last week, arguing they had a First Amendment right to publish accurate information, saying:

“Truth and justice are philosophical pillars of this Court. The perpetuation of fraud, even for an actor’s career, is inconsistent with these principles. 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.”

Additionally, the company asserted it is protecting entertainment consumers from an actress who wants to “more easily deceive the public and prospective employers about her age and potentially be considered for more roles.”

Indeed, Hoang’s suit asserted she was fired from a film after its producers learned of her actual age on IMDb.

Well, a federal jury in Seattle rejected the claim, although the details of the jury’s deliberations have not emerged. At the end of the trial, IMDb’s lawyers said, “Hoang did not present any testimony, documents, or other evidence supporting her damages, allegations of lost income and profits.”

Hoang, who goes by the name Junie Hoang, has appeared in the films Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver and Hoodrats 2: Hoodrat Warriors. In case you’re wondering just how IMDb even knew her actual birth date, Hoang claims it is because the site used her credit card information along with the PrivateEye.com website. Hoang stated, “What’s at stake here involves far more than just my own career. Anyone who values their privacy and has ever given credit card information to an online company like IMDb or Amazon.com should be concerned about the outcome.”

IMDb is owned by Amazon.com.

Well, there you have it. Are any of you concerned about the outcome of this case? Are you comfortable with IMDb researching actors’ actual birthdays and publishing them online? And, is an actor’s real age relevant for casting purposes or is the age he or she can convincingly play all that really matters?