October 27, 2011 4:26pm PT by Alex Ben Block
SAG and AFTRA Condemn IMDb Revealing Performers' Ages
Ageism is a hot button issue in show business, and one that leading U.S. guilds representing movie and TV actors charge is being aggravated by the publishing policies of the popular IMDb online data base.
The Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA struck out at IMDb and its owner Amazon.com on Thursday, condemning their practice of revealing ages of performers without the actor or actresses' permission -- and then refusing to delete or change it even when that person requests them to do so.
According to a press release issued by the guilds, there were recent behind the scenes talks with IMDb about this practice that involved SAG, AFTRA and other unnamed guilds, but those talks have now broken down.
This comes after an actress in Texas, described as an Asian-American but not named, filed a law suit against IMDb after it took information she provided when signing up for the IMDb Pro subscription service and used it to publish her age on the IMDB website.
"In the entertainment industry, youth is king," said the suit filed on Oct. 13. "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 she is thought to have less of an 'upside,' therefore, casting directors, producers, directors, agents/managers, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance or talent."
SAG and AFTRA said it is not just a legal issue. They said that they "strongly believe that businesses like IMDb have a moral and legal obligation not to facilitate age discrimination in employment."
However, that is exactly what they do, said the guilds, by publishing ages of actors which then are used by potential talent buyers: "Entertainment industry employers who would never directly ask a potential employee's age routinely access that information through IMDb and its professional subscription site IMDbPro."
This has had a devastating impact on the careers of many actors, charge the guilds. "An actor's actual age is irrelevant to casting," said the guilds. "What matters is the age range that an actor can portray. 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."
The guilds called on Amazon and IMDb to do the right thing: "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, including actors, from losing jobs for the enhancement of IMDb’s financial statements."
There was no indication that IMDB is going to change its policy, and no immediate comment from Amazon.