As you already know, in the strange universe of legality, there is no end to the conundrums, moral questions, paradoxes, social issues, brain twisters, and even downright silliness that can come up. That’s what keeps it interesting. So here’s the conundrum of the day, at least for me because it’s something I hadn’t thought of before: Is a lie legally protected?
I’ve always been a user of IMDb (Internet Movie Database), but especially since I subscribed to Netflix. The Netflix summaries aren’t complete enough to give a lot of information about a movie. IMDb gives an exhaustive wealth of information on just about every movie ever made, and the reviews on IMDb are much more complete and thoughtful than the reviews on Netflix. Therefore, I use IMDb to check movies on the Netflix lists to see if they’re actually good enough to watch, or in some cases to see if they’re bad enough to watch. I like great cinema, but I’m also a fan of cheesy B-movies. The schlockiness has to be within certain parameters, however.
Anyway, IMDb cross-references all their information, so there are not only movie pages but also actor pages that give complete bios, filmography, and pictures of anyone who has ever been in a movie. Like I said, it’s an exhaustive treasure trove of film information and very complete … and that’s where this particular conundrum starts.
An actress named Junie Hoang (IMDb page here ) provided IMDb with bio information that made her seven years younger than she really is. Later, she asked IMDb to remove the date of birth from her page, which they did. But that left an information void, and databases hate an information void; so they got her date of birth from public records and posted it. Suddenly, Ms. Hoang was (gasp!!) FORTY ONE YEARS OLD!!
Well, Ms. Hoang sued Amazon (the parent company of IMDb) for one million dollars, claiming damage to her career as work offers dropped dramatically, and for invasion of privacy (maybe that’s a separate conundrum: Can your privacy be invaded if the information is in public records?). The Screen Actors Guild and The American Federation of Television, and Radio Artists also jumped into the fight to support Ms. Hoang. They criticized IMDb for “facilitating age discrimination” for publishing actors’ dates of birth without explicit consent. In a joint statement, the unions said: “An actor’s actual age is irrelevant to casting. What matters is the age range that an actor can portray.” IMDb argued that it has a First Amendment right to publish accurate information. It also said Hoang couldn’t prove she lost any money or roles because of it, and even if she could, she couldn’t prove it was IMDb’s fault.
The outcome is that a federal court in Seattle rejected her claim, so the TRUE info gets to stay on IMDb. I guess it shows that there is no protection from the crime of being over forty in Hollywood. As for Junie Hoang, I hope she can continue her career and keep landing those big roles like her recent portrayal of Sandy in “Gingerdead Man 3,” a sequel to a 2005 Gary Busey movie in which “an evil yet adorable gingerbread man comes to life with the soul of a convicted killer,” according to the description on IMDb.
Have a good weekend and be sure to enjoy some bad movies : )