Judge won’t dismiss case of actress who sued IMDB for revealing her age

Senior Editor
03.20.13 16 Comments

If you’ll remember, back in October 2011, an actress sued IMDB for revealing her age without her consent. IMDB came back a few weeks later, saying they only released her age after she attempted to use a fake birthdate, and filed to have the lawsuit dismissed. This week, a judge ruled that the actress’s suit can go forward.

U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman said that actress Junie Hoang’s claim that IMDb.com breached privacy and subscriber agreements in using information that she provided when subscribing to IMDbPro was enough in dispute to warrant a trial. But Pechman rejected Hoang’s claim that IMDb violated the Consumer Protection Act, and also that IMDb parent Amazon.com should also be held liable.

The way it originally came out, it sounded like the actress, Junie Hoang, the star of Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver, and Hoodrats 2: Hoodrat Warrior, among other films, had tried to provide IMDB a false birthdate, and IMDB used her credit card information to search out and publish her real birthdate. Turns out that’s sort of true, but not the whole story.

Hoang, whose real name is Huong Hoang, first signed up for IMDb in 2001, but left her age blank. In 2004, she used a friend’s account to submit a 1978 date of birth, even though she was actually born in 1971. In 2007, she decided that she wanted the false birth date to be removed, and repeatedly contacted the database, asking that it be taken off her page. Yet even after she sent them documents, including a fake Texas ID, showing that the birth date was wrong, they did not remove the 1978 date from her profile.

She just didn’t lie young enough. That’s the problem with fake birthdates, they age at the same speed you do. If she was really thinking about her future, she would’ve said her birthday was 1996, so she could play barely legal in 2015. Always be thinking ahead.

In 2008, she sent IMDb an e-mail asking them to please “go back to your files and see if you have any documentation, verification or identification that my birthdate is in 1978.” She also said, “If you do, please e-mail it to me because I’m curious to see what you’re going off of.” IMDb interpreted this to mean “an invitation to begin investigating,” Pechman noted, and a customer service manager searched through a customer database where Hoang’s legal name she gave when subscribing to IMDbPro. From there, the customer service manager searched through a public records database to find her correct birth date, and published it online.

Pechman wrote that Hoang’s use of a fake ID did not negate her claim of breach of contract — as IMDb cited the doctrine of “unclean hands.” “In this case, [Hoang’s] unclean hands played no part in acquiring the right she asserts — that IMDb promised to safeguard subscriber information. …Plaintiff acquired that right the same way every subscriber did — simply by subscribing.”

I didn’t realize “yeah, but she did some really bad stuff too!” was a legitimate legal defense, but apparently it is. Also, I kind of wish IMDB had described her unclean hands as “greasy yellow hands,” like Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction, but only because I’m incredibly racist.

The judge also said that she could pursue damages for direct losses as well as for the impact on her career, but could not recover damages for emotional distress or for “non-career” losses, like for the value of her private information. [Variety]

So hopefully she can prove that age discrimination directly prevented her from getting parts in Hoodrats 4,5, and 6. Aficionados say that was a golden period for the Hoodrats franchise. Anyway, damages are actually a complicated issue. On the one hand, this chick doesn’t deserve to get rich from suing IMDB. On the other, IMDB probably does deserve to have to pay some kind of punitive damages, to deter them and other sites from revealing their users’ personal information against their will (and in this case, seemingly out of vindictiveness) in the future. Is there a charity they could be ordered to pay the money to? And are there any charities that help keep aging actresses off the streets? Maybe just a big soup kitchen with botox and an improv class.

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