IMDb Age Publication Lawsuit Appealed

The suit now goes to the Ninth Circuit for consideration of whether alleged errors by the district judge warrant a new trial.

Junie Hoang, the actress who sued IMDb for publishing her date of birth but lost in federal district court, has filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hoang, whose legal name is Huong Hoang, contends in her appeal that the district court judge abused her discretion by “denying Hoang’s motion to reopen discovery after her counsel effectively abandoned her due to his debilitating and ultimately fatal illnesses.”

Hoang also argues that “it was prejudicial error to instruct the jury on IMDb’s affirmative defense that Hoang had the burden to prove she was not in material breach of IMDb’s agreement.” That issue flowed from the fact that Hoang had initially submitted a false date of birth to IMDb, and subsequently submitted false documents to the service, all in an attempt to avoid having her actual date of birth published.

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If both of these sound like technical legal arguments, they are. That’s because appellate review is generally limited to legal matters, not to a rehearing of the facts. But if Hoang prevails in her arguments, she seeks to have the case remanded for a new trial.

In addition to Hoang’s brief, SAG-AFTRA and the WGA West filed a joint amicus brief in the Court of Appeals. That brief addresses meatier, substantive issues and appears intended to educate the Court of Appeals as to the importance of the broader policy issues. That’s a frequent function of amicus briefs.

Thus, the amicus brief makes general factual and policy assertions rather than legal arguments per se. The brief argues that IMDb is used widely in the entertainment industry, including – in particular – by casting professionals. It also argues that age discrimination is s real concern for actors and writers, citing studies that show that such discrimination exists in the market for both actors and writers.

In addition, the amicus brief argues that the publication of dates and places of birth risks identity theft, since a university study has shown that it’s possible with some reliability to predict the first five digits of one’s Social Security number from just those two pieces of data. The last four digits can be “can be obtained without much difficulty from public documents or commercial services,” the brief says.

Hoang is represented by Encino-based appellate firm Horvitz & Levy and Seattle’s Newman Du Wors, an intellectual property, Internet and general practice firm.

IMDb did not respond to a request for comment.

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