IMDb — the very popular film and television database owned by Amazon.com — is embroiled in a lawsuit filed by an actress over IMDb not only listing her birth date on its website but refusing to remove it. IMDb responded by calling the unidentified woman a “fraud” and “selfish” and requested that the court reveal her identity to allow IMDb to effectively prepare its case. One group which supports keeping the actress anonymous is the Screen Actors Guild.
As Daily Actor reported earlier, the Screen Actors Guild has come out against IMDb and age discrimination in casting in general. However, the organization is now taking a stronger stance in support of the anonymous actor suing IMDb according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the deputy national executive director and general counsel of SAG (try to say that five times fast), admits in a declaration to the court that the plaintiff’s fear of blacklisting because of her age are legitimate, pointing out, “data consistently shows that actors and performers over the age of 40 are very significantly underrepresented in roles cast.” He goes on to add, “Given that many actors can portray a range of ages that can be as much as a ten year span, or even more, allowing oneself to be prematurely pigeon-holed as an ‘over 40’ actress can be very harmful. The loss of work that can result not only affects the actor’s ability to pay the rent or buy groceries, but also affects eligibility for health insurance and pension credits, and can havelifelong and substantial consequences.”
What I find curious is that Crabtree-Ireland is obviously not denying that ageism exists in the entertainment industry and admits that IMDb’s use of actor’s ages on its website only makes that problem worse. As a result, he asks that the court maintains the plaintiff’s anonymity as “Jane Doe” because as bad as ageism is, there are certainly other issues that affect casting. He explains, “many performers who have approached me about a variety of complaints or issues involving the industry have expressly stated their concerns about being blacklisted once identified as a ‘complainer,’ and have been very reticent to publically step forward due to the anticipated career and personal consequences for doing so.” All in all, he supports keeping the identity of the plaintiff anonymous to avoid another industry problem, blacklisting, from denying the actress even more work.
Nonetheless, it’s rather unlikely that the plaintiff will remain anonymous. Courts rarely allow plaintiffs to remain unidentified (unless they are minors) because of the difficulty of preparing a case with an anonymous plaintiff, leaving the defendants at a significant disadvantage.
We’ll keep you updated on this case, but until then give us your comments on this latest development!