Last month a story rocketed around the web of an actress suing the Internet Movie Database (owned by Amazon.com), claiming it used credit card information to find her birth date and publish it on the IMDb site. Most stories left the invasion of privacy issue alone and focused on an actress suing to keep her age confidential – she says that ageism in Hollywood is a big problem for actresses as they approach 40.
I used my site, however, to talk about whether or not a court would permit her to proceed anonymously, a subject then picked up by The Hollywood Reporter.
And now The Hollywood Reporter follows up with a story saying that IMDb is doing exactly as I predicted, attacking her anonymity. I bet there is no doubt among the strategists that if she can be forced to reveal her identity, the suit will be dropped and IMDb will never have to confront the issue of privacy issues and credit cards.
According to THR, IMDb has now filed a nasty motion to dismiss, believing that this actress is the same as another that made a similar complaint:
she first tried to get the service to post a false birthdate so she could fool potential Hollywood employers into thinking she was younger than she actually is. Now a judge is being asked to dismiss the lawsuit so as to not perpetuate a fraud on the public.
Oooooh. Fight back against the actress with a charge of trying to defraud the public. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what Hollywood and actors do? Does anyone really believe a giant monkey will climb the Empire State Building? That there’s a giant intergalactic war going on? That Joanie really loves Chachi?
This is the way IMDb approaches the issue in the Court:
“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.”
Of course, the actress wasn’t trying to perpetuate a fraud on the court, but trying to stop an invasion of privacy regarding her credit card information. So that is an interesting shift of the real issue.
But not everything is serious in the filing, as THR reports:
The company also claims to be taking the moral high ground in 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.”
Of course, I think that IMDb is being funny when it talks about the public being deceived by an actress, whose very training is doing just that: pretending to be someone else. It’s sort of what makes Hollywood go round and round.
One particularly odd thing about the synopsis of the filing: IMDb is claiming an attempted fraud, yet they claim not to know who the actress actually is. They only think it is someone else who made a similar complaint.
Anyway, when the fighting is all done, I think the actress will lose her bid to be anonymous, but it will have nothing to do with trying to perpetuate frauds. It will be because this type of case doesn’t meet the high bar set for seeking anonymity that I originally discussed.
The attempt to get the IMDb to post the wrong date of birth is fraud. Is it a legally actionable fraud? Is there a specific tort for it? I doubt it, but that doesn’t change what it is.
Even someone who makes their living in fiction does not have the right to fictionalize what is considered a factual record.
You imply that people who work in fiction(actors, writers, directors, CGI effects workers, mimes, etc…) should be held to a different standard of truth in the real world both morally and legally. Either that, or you could just be assuming that everyone that works in fiction is unethical. Either way, it doesn’t look good.
You also mischaracterize the statements of IMDb: “One particularly odd thing about the synopsis of the filing: IMDb is claiming an attempted fraud, yet they claim not to know who the actress actually is. They only think it is someone else who made a similar complaint.”
Attempting to post an invalid age is not a similar complaint to complaining about the newly listed age. For starters, the first one isn’t even a complaint. Actress X attempted to get her age posted as Y. IMDb refused. Subsequently, they posted her age as Z > Y. Now they’re being sued for improperly using the confidential information of an actress to determine her age. It’s not a stretch to think they’re the same person.
The attempt to get the IMDb to post the wrong date of birth is fraud.
My understanding from the Hollywood Reporter story is that IMDb doesn’t really know for sure that they have the right person, making the fraud claim silly and premature. Who cares if IMDb thinks its the same person? They have a vested interest in the outcome. Courts, however, deal with actual proof.
The whole fraud thing is simply a diversionary tactic, in my opinion, away from the real issue of whether the credit card information was taken from one part of the corp and used for another purpose.
I don’t disagree that this is a diversionary tactic, but it does have some basis. IF this is the same actress, then her credibility takes a large hit.
There may be independent evidence of IMDb’s improper actions, but with an unreliable complaining witness, would there be enough information to subpoena anything or even get to discovery?
I haven’t read the filings, but I’d think that if the motion is based on a possible attempt of the actress to defraud the court (if she’s not mentioned, her previous actions can’t be used to impeach her), then it could possibly be justifiable.
Even if it stands no chance (as we both agree), I doubt it was meant to. It looks like a prodding on a separate issue. Basically: “if you keep her shielded, we can’t mount a fair defense, and we’d definitely win our appeal.”
Once her name is out, if it matches, her side is fighting uphill.
To me, both sides are wrong. It’s absolutely ridiculous and vain that the actress in question has tried to appear younger; as if someone that would actually hire her wouldn’t know who they’re hiring.. poppycock! I wouldn’t count on IMDB for information when it comes to hiring someone. On the other hand, using someone’s credit card information to reveal their actual age without their permission is wrong too! Vanity may not be a crime, but still, people should know some boundaries. If she hadn’t tried to deceive the wide public, IMDB probably wouldn’t try to prove her wrong either! Case solved.
How did you solve the issue of taking credit card info? All you did was say that IMDb can continue to do it with impunity.
No, I just said that in my eyes the whole case arose from someone’s sheer vanity, not that either side is right or wrong. I continue to think they both are wrong indeed, but I just can’t seem to grasp how can someone turn the world around their vanity like that.
I just said that in my eyes the whole case arose from someone’s sheer vanity
Actually, it seems to have arisen due to rampant age discrimination against actresses over 40. Looks like business and career concerns.
Leaving aside the credit cared issue, the fact that actors and Hollywood deal with fantasy and deception on the screen is irrelevant to whether it is dishonest for an actress to actively attempt to deceive the public regarding her age when she is off the screen. Actors playing roles are not lying—that is a ritual in play, and the audience is aware that what is being shown is not literally true. Actresses and actors, however, have no greater leave to lie when they are not performing than politicians or comedians. They are subject to the same standards as everyone else, and the IMDB has no obligation to assist their efforts to deceive employers,fans or potential ticket buyers.
Leaving aside the credit cared issueLeaving aside the credit cared issue…
Leave it aside? This is the basic point of the lawsuit.
… the fact that actors and Hollywood deal with fantasy and deception on the screen is irrelevant to whether it is dishonest for an actress to actively attempt to deceive the public regarding her age when she is off the screen.
This is not the point of the post, but merely an ironic aside. (Note my comment, “I think that IMDb is being funny when it talks about the public being deceived by an actress”)
Whether one considers it comic or not is in the eye of the reader and doesn’t address the credit card issue.
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