An unnamed actress claims that the infamous movie trivia cheaters' site IMDb misused her legal birth date after she signed up for the IMDbPro service in 2008. She says that by revealing her true age, the Internet Movie Database has cost her innumerable acting opportunities and is suing the Amazon.com subsidiary for more than $1 million.
According to BBC news, Amazon and its subsidiary have been accused of breach of contract, fraud, and the violation of privacy and consumer protection laws. Apart from the shocking revelation that a site masquerading as a database for accurate movie information is in fact providing accurate movie information, the actress, a Texas resident of Asian descent who uses an Americanized stage name, alleges that filmmakers (gasp!) are ageist.
The present case is not the first such litigation to be brought against IMDb — in June of 2010, The Wrap reported that the Writer's Guild of America, West was spearheading an effort to allow anyone listed on IMDb to remove his or her birth dates from the site. Such efforts, moreover, may have implications that extend far beyond not being able to break the awkward tension at dinner parties by mindlessly reciting the surprising ages — Brad Pitt is almost fifty!? — of your favorite Hollywood celebrities. According to John W. Dozier, Jr., the attorney representing the actress, a central issue in determining IMDb's liability is determining whether or not the site is immune under the Communications Decency Act, which ensures that sites such as Google providing interactive computer services are not responsible for defamatory information published by another content provider.
This latest lawsuit states:
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, agents-manager, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance or talent.
Ageism has been a prevalent force in a film industry that favors youth. A director casting a role for a high school teenager wouldn't, for example, cast a twenty-something to wear a cheerleader's outfit or sprint through the hallways with a backpack slung over her shoulder because that would be ridiculous. Oh, wait... When casting call decisions are made as much for appearance as they are for talent, an actor's perceived age can make all the difference in landing a role.
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