Junie Hoang lost her case to get her date of birth removed from <i>IMDb.com</i>.

Junie Hoang lost her case to get her date of birth removed from IMDb.com. Photo: Facebook

The actress who sued IMDb - the Internet Movie Database - for revealing her date of birth has lost her case in a Seattle court.

Huong (aka Junie) Hoang, a 41-year-old actor born in Saigon, launched her suit against IMDb.com, which is owned by Amazon, in October 2011. She originally sought $1 million in damages for loss of career opportunities stemming from the website's publication of her date of birth. This was later amended to unspecified compensatory damages and costs.

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Ms Hoang had claimed she was born in 1978 when she submitted her information to the site, which hosts career information on many thousands of industry professionals. She was in fact born on July 16, 1971, a fact IMDb made public following a dispute with the actress over her entry.

Ms Hoang alleged in her suit that the only way IMDb could have found her actual date of birth was from the details of the credit card she had used to register with the site in 2008 (and which she also used to purchase items on Amazon). This, and the fact they published her birth date against her wishes constituted a breach of the user agreement, she claimed.

According to court documents, Ms Hoang alleged that IMDb had “used the information she provided to 'scour public records databases and other sources for purposes of discovering Plaintiff's date of birth'.”

The implications of that "data mining" charge were potentially huge, but it was Ms Hoang's argument that a 40-year-old actress (as she was when the suit was filed) had far less chance of finding work than a 33-year-old that rang truest for many in the industry.

Although Ms Hoang was largely unknown before the suit – the court heard this week that her tax returns showed she earned less than $2000 from acting in 2010 – the ageism she described was not.

"In the entertainment industry, youth is king," she said in her original statement of claim, filed anonymously for fear of the further damage it could do to her career.

The Screen Actors Guild agreed with her. Soon after she launched her suit, the Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists issued a joint statement calling on IMDb to "to step up and take responsibility for the harm it has caused" by publishing actors' dates of birth.

The Guild and AFTRA argued that IMDb should allow actors to indicate an “age range” they could feasibly play.

"IMDb publishes the actual dates of birth of thousands of actors without their consent, most of them not celebrities but rank-and-file actors whose names are unknown to the general public,” the organisations said in their joint statement. “When their actual ages then become known to casting personnel, the 10+ year age range that many of them can portray suddenly shrinks and so do their opportunities to work."

Unfortunately for Ms Hoang and all the other rank-and-file actors out there, it was decided in a pre-trial hearing last week that this case would not consider such matters. No expert witnesses would be called to testify on the subject of ageism in Tinseltown (Ms Hoang's lawyers reportedly had nine witnesses lined-up to testify that IMDb had refused to take down birthdate details when requested).

That meant the issue at stake was simply whether or not IMDb had breached its contract with Ms Hoang by using her credit card data to determine her true age, and then publishing that information against her wishes.

On that basis, Ms Hoang's case looked weak. IMDb's lawyers presented evidence that she had lied about her age not just in her initial submission but also by supplying a fake passport. Her declared income from acting was so low that any argument about lost opportunities could be no more than speculation.

In the end the jury sided with IMDb's argument that it was motivated purely by the “search for truth”.

Time will tell if that truth has done lasting damage to Ms Hoang's career, or raised it to heights it otherwise may never have reached.

In the meantime, she can next be seen in the forthcoming TV show Exotic Dancers of Houston.