November 14, 2011 6:00am PT by Eriq Gardner
IMDb Strikes Back at 'Selfish' Actress Suing Over Age Disclosure (Exclusive)
The Internet Movie Database has launched a blistering counterattack against the anonymous actress who sued the service for revealing her age.
Amazon.com, owner of iMDb, believes it knows the identity of this woman, and it tells a Washington federal court that before she filed the lawsuit, she first tried to get the service to post a false birthdate so she could fool potential Hollywood employers into thinking she was younger than she actually is. Now a judge is being asked to dismiss the lawsuit so as to not perpetuate a fraud on the public.
When the anonymous Texas woman sued last month, she not only sparked a guessing game about her identity, but also a larger discussion about ageism in Hollywood. "In the entertainment, youth is king," she wrote in her Oct. 13 lawsuit, leading to a round of applause among fellow actors, including the guilds SAG and AFTRA, which condemned iMDb for its policies and said the company had a moral obligation not to facilitate discrimination in employment.
IMDb isn't backing down from a debate about values. Far from it.
In its motion to dismiss filed last week and obtained by THR, the company questions whether the judicial system should be used to help an actress hide her 40 years of age. According to IMDb:
"Truth and justice are philosophical pillars of this Court. The perpetuation of fraud, even for an actor's career, is inconsistent with these principals. Plaintiff's attempt to manipulate the federal court system so she can censor iMDb's display of her birth date and pretend to the world that she is not 40 years old is selfish, contrary to the public interest and a frivolous abuse of this Court's resources."
The company also claims to be taking the moral high ground in protecting entertainment consumers from an actress who wants to "more easily deceive the public and prospective employers about her age and potentially be considered for more roles."
The woman is said to have contacted the company previously in an effort to get IMDb to print false birthdates or to remove her birthdate altogether.
Three years ago, according to the court papers, the woman who iMDb suspects as the plaintiff had her lawyer send a letter attempting to get the site to change her birthdate under the excuse that the wrong date was submitted by her former manager. The woman allegedly faxed a birth certificate and a passport to iMDb's offices, but certain information was redacted so iMDb declined to make changes.
This past May, the woman is said to have hired a new lawyer, who sent a warning letter that threatened a class action lawsuit. The threats didn't move iMDB either. So the lawyer filed a lawsuit last month.
Based upon a comparison of these past communications and the complaint, IMDb says it is confident the lawsuit was filed by the same woman. Nevertheless, the company says it can't be totally certain of her identity, pointing to certain discrepencies. Absent certainty, it says that it will be prejudiced if this woman is allowed to remain anonymous: "IMDb.com cannot fairly defend against the Complaint in this case with the identity of the plaintiff secreted."
The judge is being asked to dismiss the case because the original lawsuit was an alleged violation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a). IMDb believes the plaintiff has no proper reason to file her case anonymously, so the company is attempting to get the case dismissed if the woman doesn't step forward to reveal herself.
In the 9th Circuit, plaintiffs are allowed to proceed anonymously when doing so is justified by the harm that would be inflicted on the party if he or she is revealed. (Here's THR's analysis of whether IMDb can force the woman to reveal herself.) IMDb says the plaintiff hasn't made specific allegations or shown evidence of any retaliation beyond "generic damage and economic injury." On the contrary, the company says it will be hurt if this case is allowed to go forward in this fashion.