Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Actress' Suit Against IMDb One for the Ages

Internet Movie Database
Internet Movie Database (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hollywood's obsession with youthful screen stars is best reflected by the probably apocryphal tale of the journalist who once wired legendary actor Cary Grant: "How old Cary Grant?" to which he replied: "Old Cary Grant fine. How you?"

Age was no laughing matter to actress Huong Hoang, whose stage name, Junie Hoang, can be found in the credits of celluloid classics, including Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver (2011) and Hoodrats 2: Hoodrat Warriors (2008). Last week, according to the Associated Press, a United States District Court for the Western District of Washington jury rejected her breach of contract claim in Hoang v., Inc. &, Inc. (Case No. C11-1709(MJP)).

Before the trial began, the presiding judge granted the summary judgment motion of defendant Amazon, the parent company of  the Internet Movie Database(IMDb) Web site, allowing it to get out of the case. Hoang initially sought $1 million damages against IMDb in her complaint, which included counts of breach of contract and violation of Washington's Privacy Act [RCW 9.73 et seq.) and Consumer Protection Act [RCW 19.86.020], for publishing her actual age in her profile.

The 41-year-old Houston native originally listed her birthdate as 1978, instead of 1971, because she claimed she was always cast in younger roles, according to the AP story. IMDb refused her request not to list a birth year at all unless she could prove the original date listed was incorrect. The defendant ultimately performed a public records search using her birth name and listed the 1971 birthdate on her account profile, despite her protestations.

She alleged in her complaint that acting roles were few and far-between once her actual age appeared on the site, despite her obviously sterling resume. She sued for breach of contract, alleging the defendant violated its privacy terms by mining her account data. The defendant countered that it had a First Amendment right to publish the information and that she had failed to show any damages sustained as a result of the listing of her birth year as 1971. The jury apparently agreed.

IMDb lists more than 2 million pages of data about tv, movies and entertainment in its searchable database, according to the AP story. Hoang should not give up hope--maybe she can fill the void in mature roles left by Judi Dench's decision to curtail her movie appearances to concentrate on theater.

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