Actress Sues Amazon, IMDb Over Revealing Her Age

Oct 18, 2011 5:07pm

If the actress calling herself “Jane Doe” in court documents was hoping to remain anonymous, filing a $1 million lawsuit against the Internet movie database IMDb and its parent company Amazon.com for revealing her real age was probably not the way to do it.

In court documents filed on Oct. 13, “Jane Doe” is described only as an actress of Asian descent who “scrupulously hid both her real name and age” as she tried to get work in the acting industry.

According to the documents, the actress believed that both her age and her hard-to-pronounce Asian name were drawbacks in Hollywood where “youth is king.” The lawsuit said that “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…”

IMDb is a searchable database that posts photos and lists the acting credits of virtually every actor, director and producer working in Hollywood. “Jane Doe” decided to subscribe to an “industry insider” version of the database called IMDbPro. Shortly after she signed up and typed in a credit card number to pay for the monthly subscriber fee, she noticed that her real age was posted and visible for the public — and presumably any casting agent or director —  to see.

The suit alleges that IMDbPro must have matched credit card information with public records to glean the information without her knowledge. “Jane Doe” asked IMDbPro to remove the information and they refused.

The suit alleges that IMDbPro “intercepts credit card information obtained during the subscription process for the purposes of gathering information about its subscribers” and further “both defendants are fully aware of the information-gathering, storing and usage process and have done nothing to stop the unlawful and wrong practices.”

Calling the practice “unfair, immoral and unscrupulous”, Jane Doe’s Seattle-based lawyers are asking for a jury trial and $1 million in punitive damages. Amazon.com owns IMDb and both companies are named in the lawsuit.

No one from Amazon responded to a request from ABC News.com for comment, although Amazon did tell KIRO-FM, the radio station that originally broke the story, that the company would not comment on pending litigation.

The privacy policy on IMDbPro’s website said that when it comes to posting personal information, “We receive and store any information you enter on our Web site or give us in any other way.”  And, the privacy policy continues that the website reserves the right to gather information “like your name and age” when you register, answer quizzes or questionnaires.

Lying about your age in not exactly uncommon in Hollywood and actresses ranging from Sandra Bullock to Jennifer Lopez have been accused of shaving a year or two off their official bio. Even deducting a decade is not unheard of. Actress Gabrielle Carteris, who played Andrea Zuckerman on 90210, was 29 when she took the role of the 16-year-old student. She was “age-outed” years later when a magazine wrote an in-depth profile on her.

But that kind of fudging is getting increasingly difficult to do, as more and more public records databases migrate online. You might be able to lie about your age to your agent, but it’s harder to do at the DMV.

Of course the ultimate irony for “Jane Doe” is that despite her desire to remain anonymous, the publicity surrounding this lawsuit has sparked something of an online parlor game, as several gossip sites have asked readers to speculate on her identity and her real age.

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