In an anonymous complaint, an actress has filed suit against Amazon after it posted her real date of birth on her public Internet Movie Database listing.
The actress alleges that the publication of her age has harmed her career by resulting in a loss of employment opportunities and earnings.
She claims that when she created her professional profile on imdb.com eight years earlier, she used a stage name and listed her age as a few years younger. IMDb is a “very handy resume tool” for the film and television industry, the plaintiff contends, that provided her with exposure. That exposure “directly influenced most, if not all, of her employment opportunities, credits and earnings,” she claims.
In 2008, when she upgraded to a premium IMDb account, she used a credit card with her legal name to pay for her subscription. The site then updated her profile with her true age, “revealing to the public that plaintiff is many years older than she looks,” according to the complaint.
“In the entertainment industry, youth is king,” the complaint claims. “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 a result of the disclosure of her true age, the plaintiff has “experienced rejection in the industry” because 40-year-old actresses are not in demand in the entertainment business, she alleges. In addition, because she does not look her true age, the plaintiff claims she cannot physically portray roles of women her age.
Amazon violated her privacy rights, the suit claims, by using the data from her credit card to research public records about her.
The complaint seeks compensatory damages of at least $75,000 and punitive damages in excess of $1 million, as well as an order to remove the plaintiff’s legal date of birth from the Web site.
To read the complaint in Doe v. Amazon.com, click here.
Why it matters: The suit could turn on the immunity available to online publishers under §230 of the Communications Decency Act. If imdb.com is publishing allegedly defamatory information – in this case, the plaintiff’s true age – based on its own research into public records, then it would not be immune from suit. But the question remains: Is publication of an actress’s actual age defamatory?