Actress sues internet database

TWO powerful US actors’ groups have condemned the main movie industry website over its policy of giving artists’ ages, saying it was facilitating discrimination in the business.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) spoke out days after a US actress lodged a $US1 million ($A934,623) lawsuit against Amazon, which owns the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).

“An actor’s actual age is irrelevant to casting. What matters is the age range that an actor can portray,” the two groups said in a statement.

“For the entire history of professional acting, this has been true but that reality has been upended by the development of IMDb as an industry standard used in casting offices across America.”

It noted that IMDb and IMDbPro publish the 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.

“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.”

Earlier this month an actress, who asked for her identity to be masked and is referred to only as “Jane Doe”, launched a suit against Amazon for damages and interests with the Western District Court of Washington state, in Seattle.

According to the suit, the actress, who is of Asian descent, changed her name to make it more American and has never wanted to reveal her age in order to maximise her chances of obtaining film roles.

Since 2003 her profile has been available on the IMDb database. In 2008 to increase her exposure, she subscribed to IMDbPro which offers “insider information” to paying clients.

To join the service, the actress had to hand over her credit card details – which she believes were used to find out her age.

Contacted by AFP, Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako, declined to comment on the case, saying: “We have a long-standing practice of not commenting on active litigation.”

Yesterday SAG and AFTRA said: “IMDb has the power to remove the temptation for employers to engage in age discrimination by accessing this information.

“It is time for IMDb to step up and take responsibility for the harm it has caused, and to take appropriate measures to protect entertainment industry workers.. from losing jobs for the enhancement of IMDb’s financial statements.”

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