Actors guilds blast IMDb for age discrimination

The Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA issued a press release Thursday, denouncing IMDb and its owner Amazon.com for IMDb’s practice of revealing the ages of performers without their consent. The organizations claim the practice has led to shrinking work options and age-discrimination for actors. According to the release, SAG, AFTRA, and other entertainment unions had been negotiating with IMDb to reach a solution, but IMDb has since rejected their efforts.

“Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strongly believe that businesses like IMDb have a moral and legal obligation not to facilitate age discrimination in employment,” said the guilds. “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. IMDb has the power to remove the temptation for employers to engage in age discrimination by accessing this information.” 

The statement comes two weeks after a lawsuit an unnamed Texas-based actress filed against IMDb claiming that IMDb’s “malicious, intentional, oppressive, outrageous” and “callous” unwillingness to take down her real age have hurt her livelihood. The Jane Doe, 40, is seeking $75,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, plus attorney’s fees.

According to the guilds, her case is not uncommon. “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,” they said. “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.”

To rectify the situation, the guilds are asking that IMDb change their privacy policies: “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.”

EW was unable to reach IMDb for comment.

Read more:
Lawyers on IMDb suit: ‘It’s going to be an uphill fight’
Woman sues IMDb for revealing her age

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Comments (76 total) Add your comment
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  • Ash

    Ah crap. I love imdb and now these bitches are ruining it.

  • Burton

    I see their point, however, it seems so silly a thing. I feel like I’ve written down my full date of birth on applications, though it’s been ages since I’ve had to fill one out. We know the ages of famous actors, producers, and directors, so I wonder if taking down their birthdays would matter. Also, I could very easily buy any potential employees information if I REALLY wanted to, so age discrimination will always be every1, even if it’s been cut in half.

    • Acaseofgeo

      I agree Burton, plus, This is the whiny-est legal argument I have ever heard. This isn’t the 1950’s, ages of celebrities are easily accessible almost anywhere. Besides, is an audience really going to buy an actress in her 50’s as a young ingenue, regardless of how much plastic surgery they’ve had? Plus, we have easy access to actors’ previous work. We know Valerie Bertinelli was on “One Day At A Time” in 1976 as a 16 year-old (?). Add it up, we KNOW she’s not 30. And most casting directors don’t seem to CARE what age an actor is. He can be way over 60 (Mr. Ford) and still have a love interest 30 years his junior (in that stranded-airplane movie thingy with Anne Heche). This is just an eye-rolling argument for me.

      • Naul Pewman

        I’m going to assume that neither of you read the entire article or have serious reading disabilities. The claim isn’t on behalf of celebrities, its on behalf of non-celebrity actors. You seem to like to right a lot in response with actually reading what has been said.

      • Acaseofgeo

        I READ the article. It begins with SCREEN ACTORS GUILD and AFTRA. This suggests more than ONE 40 yo actress from Texas. So uhm ,yeah.

      • Mo

        Um… the paragraph after the one with the 40 yo actress says: According to the guilds, her case is not uncommon. ”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,” they said. “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.” So yes, it’s more than ONE 40 yo actress from Texas, but no, it’s not about widely-known celebrities, so what ace below says.

      • Feverishkin

        It is a shame that anyone is being discriminated because of age, but I dont think the birthdays should be deleted. Only because who is to say that actors would not want what they would consider their worst perfomances deleted next. It is a slippery slope.

    • ace

      you don’t get it. these aren’t celebrities. these are struggling actors who still haven’t had their big break. and i doubt anybody’s gonna bother to open a wikipedia entry on them. casting agents will go to imdb to check their age and won’t audition them if they’re too old. so even if they are talented, they’re not given the chance. that’s age discrimination.

      • thedancingcookie

        They don’t get it because they don’t understand the industry. Not just an actor thing either, writers also suffer this problem. Great to see the guilds standing up for their members.

        Why go after IMDB? Ah, because it released the info!

    • Yoselina

      teen dinon ke natya samaroh hone ke karan smayaa par upasthit nahIM ho pa raha hoon. aaj bhi nahi aa paoonga. doosare din ya late night mein hi dekh pata hoon.

  • Burton

    *everywhere

  • wtf

    oh for crips sake. maybe if they stopped getting weird plastic surgery and making themselves look freaky and old they’d get more jobs. btw, every job application in america includes a section called “date of birth”.

    • Naul Pewman

      I don’t think its the non-celebrities that are getting the plastic surgeries.

    • Kelly

      Application, maybe – but a lot of us have jobs where we used resumes, and ages are not revealed on those. Someone MIGHT do math based on dates of when you worked where, but even that isn’t going to be accurate. (For example, nothing on my resume notes that I graduated high school at 15, or that I completed college as a non-traditional student in my late 20s. It just lists job dates and ranges, and graduation dates for my various college degrees.)

    • Think again

      No they don’t. They ask if you are at least 18 yrs of age but it is illegal on a job application to ask for date of birth or your age. Only after you are hired and filling out paperwork does that question get asked.

  • Meg

    What’s the point? The printed media will release an actor’s age–usually without the consent of the actor. EW, you just did it in this article: “The Jane Doe, 40, is seeking $75,000….” Why is she specifically singling out IMDb when the media, even Wikipedia, is just as much to blame?

    • Acaseofgeo

      40???? Oh the horror! Being “OUTED” for being 40. These people really ARE “callous, malicious”. OK, so who do we know in Texas, Female Actor, 40? Someone Google it. I’d like to write on her Facebook page that she’s not gonna be able to play a high-schooler no matter how much she whines about this….

    • T.

      People who don’t work in the industry don’t get it. I work in the industry, as a commercial actor (Have for 10+ years). I also, as a grown up, work doing back ground checks & research for a large corporate firm. Sadly, this DOES have a profound affect on peoples lives & the industry. Yes, of course SAG and AFTRA would get involved for all of you people asking “WHY are the unions getting involved?” … Because that’s how bad it is. Actors might not be respected but it is still a JOB. Imagine if you went into your job interview and 6-12 people are looking your name up right infront of you. Many of us have used several different names just so we could get work. It wouldn’t be SUCH a big deal if they’d fix their site and give you the option of having your information out there. It’s torture.

  • Elaine

    If SAG and AFTRA want to go after someone for age discrimination, they should go after the people who actually hire actors. Those are the people who are practicing age discrimination. IMDB is just stating the truth, which shouldn’t be a crime. Be proud of your age, instead of trying to deny it.

    • Bonnie

      Thank you! This is ludicrous.

    • Eshia

      Exactly! Don’t sue imdb, it’s the casting directors who are discriminating!

    • Amber

      That would be great, in theory. The problem is that you can’t prove that they’ve committed age discrimination as easily as you can connect the dots between the release of information and the damage it does to non-celebrity actors. It’s almost impossible to prove why something DIDN’T happen (i.e. getting an audition).This is a civil case, and the burden of proof is much lower. It’s much easier to get them to take the information down.

    • Bob R

      well said. Plus, the information is obviously out there. I doubt IMDB had private detectives looking it up

  • kaley

    Age and date of birth is private information. It can help people with crimes like identity theft. In this day and age, that type of information should not be revealed without someone’s consent. What is IMDb’s problem?

    • TonyWendice

      Are you serious? Date of birth is public information. It’s on drivers licenses which are public. This comment above is ridiculous. As is SAG and Afrta’s positions. If there is age discrimination in Hollywood they should address it not sue people who publish truthful facts and information.

      On the other hand, if a producer doesn’t want to hire a 60 year old to play a 45 year old character why shouldn’t that be their right?

      • Allison

        Actually, driver’s license information isn’t publicly searchable – I only know this because I’m currently in a media law class. The federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994 prohibits states from revealing personal info.

        But I still think this suit is focusing on the wrong problem. If Hollywood is ageist it’s not because the actor’s age is publicly available. Hollywood used to be racist, painting white actors for roles portraying other ethnicities. The way to fight it wasn’t by painting minority actors white, it was by minority actors becoming better actors.

      • Really??

        @Allison your comment was on point up until you said the way to fight racism in hollywood was for minority actors to become better. You can’t be serious right? That was a bad attempt at sarcasm? Racism still exists in Hollywood. Have you ever asked yourself why there are so few African-Americans or other minorities on the big networks or any network? Or why less than 10% of big budget movies released have a minority lead? It wasn’t that our acting became better, it was the fact that minorities began to stand up and demand better treatment and when that happened, instead of waiting around for white casting directors, writers and producers to create a spot for us that didn’t involve the maid, the driver, the thug, etc.. we started doing for ourselves until our talent could no longer be denied. But racism is still alive and well in Hollywood and it is in no way comparable to this lawsuit. Next time know your facts before saying something so utterly stupid, please

      • kaley

        @TonyWendice Are YOU serious? Date of birth is not public information: why do you think it’s used as an identifier on accounts so often? And why does a producer care about an actresses’ age as long as she LOOKS the part? Movies/TV are all about illusion not what’s real (you know, that’s why it’s called “acting,” “make believe,” etc. With ignorance like this, no wonder Hollywood turns out so much crap.

  • Josh

    But how is it imdb’s fault that Hollywood is ageist?

    • Naul Pewman

      You really can’t be that stupid…but maybe you are. It not that its their fault, its that they have the opportunity to end it. Ok, you’re parents were crappy individuals and they raised you not to do the right thing, but that makes you the bad guy, get it?

      • Andrei

        But if IMDb does what the Guild wants, it doesn’t end the problem, just hides it. The way to end the problem is to shine a bright light on it, and make the offenders stop offending – that way, having the age listed on IMDb would be irrelevant.

  • chris

    Is this a joke?

    • Naul Pewman

      No. You are.

    • Renee Zellwegger

      I don’t think it’s a joke.

  • jmcg

    Job applications routinely ask for date of birth–what are they whining about? Get a real job!

    • allie

      haha, yea i know jmcg. although acting is a real job, this person needs to stop whining about age “descrimination”, and besides in acting, you sometimes get picked based on your age for the role which is probably normal

    • Naul Pewman

      Apparently you’ve never had a job, I suggest you move out of your parents based and actually fill out a job application. It is ILLEGAL to ask for the age of an applicant. Employers aren’t even allowed to ask for your driver’s license until after you are employed.

      • Danielle

        It is illegal in an interview but not on an application.

  • Trey

    Seriously? Everyone has a birthday.

  • Lisa

    Don’t the actors control their own bios? I thought, especially with less famous actors, their agents or managers wrote the information. If they don’t want their age on the internet, don’t give it to IMDB. I feel like the website doesn’t actively seek out this information, and if it doesn’t come from the actors’ people it comes from curious fans. Plus, I’ve know when IMDB has posted the wrong age, so the actor can just tell the casting agents the website is wrong.

    • Ace

      Nope, IMDB is a wiki. Anyone with a (free) membership to the site can add or edit information.

  • Bus Driver

    IMDB is an informational site, a pop culture “encyclopedia” of sorts. Age is a piece of information. Stupid lawsuit.

  • Q.H.

    With all due respect to the Guilds…this is idiocy.

  • In LA

    First, the “40-year Texas based actress”, if she were serious/successful concerning her career, she would not be living in Texas, she would be trying to find work in Los Angeles – There are a number of actresses over 40 working quite successfully in this town- case dismissed. Second, the lawsuit is absolutely absurd. Agreed, why blame the publishers of the facts because of a mental condition that is endemic in a business based on fake beauty and false perception? Further, any motor vehicle division, attorney, bank employee, government agency, credit bureau, and insurance company readily have access to your so-called ‘private’ information, it’s going to be disclosed. Address the real problem or go out and create your own work!

    • Ace

      Actually, Texas has become a relatively major secondary market in the past decade or so. Lots of movies and shows are filmed in DFW and Austin.

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