Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc.
|Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al.|
|United States District Court for the Western District of Washington|
|Full case name||Huong Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. and IMDb.com, Inc.,|
|Date decided||April 11, 2013|
|Citations||no. 11-cv-01709, (W.D. Wash., filed Oct. 13, 2011)
no. 13-35390, (9th Cir., filed May 6, 2013)
|Judge sitting||Marsha J. Pechman|
|Jury verdict; IMDb did not breach its contract with plaintiff by publishing her true date of birth|
|internet privacy, breach of contract|
Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al. (initially filed as Doe v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al.) is a lawsuit brought by actress Junie Hoang in October 2011 against IMDb.com and its parent company Amazon.com for revealing her true date of birth, which she said opened her up to age discrimination. In March 2013, all of her claims against Amazon and all but one of her claims against IMDb were dismissed, and in April 2013, a jury found that IMDb was not liable for the remaining claim for breach of contract; the verdict was upheld on appeal.
Hoang, whose real name is Huong Hoang (Vietnamese Hoàng Hương), is a Vietnamese-American actress. She had small parts in films such as Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver, Hoodrats 2: Hoodrat Warriors, and My Big Phat Hip Hop Family, as well as guest roles on television series such as I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant.
In October 2011 Hoang filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and its parent company Amazon.com, alleging that IMDb had accessed her account information to obtain her true birth date (July 16, 1971), then displayed it as part of the information on her entry as an actress. Her complaint alleged that the use of her account information was wrongful and that publication of the information would cause her to suffer age discrimination in casting.
Hoang's lawsuit was originally filed under the name "Jane Doe", but in December 2011, U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman in Seattle dismissed the original lawsuit with leave to refile under her own name, saying the actress had no grounds to proceed with an anonymous complaint. On January 6, 2012, Hoang refiled, revealing her name.
In March 2013, Judge Pechman granted Amazon's motion for summary judgment, releasing it from the case; and IMDb's motion for summary judgment on Hoang's Washington state's Consumer Protection Act claim and emotional distress claims. The case went to trial on April 9, 2013 on the remaining cause of action, IMDb's alleged breach of contract, with IMDb as the sole defendant. On April 11, 2013, a federal jury in Seattle rejected the breach of contract claim.
In May 2013, Hoang filed a notice of appeal in the case. Hoang's opening brief was filed on October 30, and IMDb's answering brief was filed December 24; Hoang voluntarily dismissed Amazon.com from the appeal on November 4. Hoang's reply brief was filed February 3, 2014.
There were two motions made to file amicus curiae briefs in support of Hoang; one by four screenwriters David Ransil, Brad Markowitz, Steven Tag Mendillo and Mark Lisson on November 20; and one by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) on November 25. Both motions were denied, because they did not address the ground on which Hoang had appealed.
Oral argument in the case was held in Seattle on February 6, 2015. The Ninth Circuit panel was composed of circuit judges Carlos T. Bea and Mary H. Murguia, and district judge William H. Orrick III, sitting by designation.
On March 27, 2015, the Ninth Circuit panel unanimously affirmed the decision in favor of IMDb.
Reaction and aftermath
Two actors' unions, SAG and AFTRA, supported Hoang, saying that IMDb was "facilitating age discrimination".
After the lawsuit was decided, the unions pressed the California legislature to enact legislation requiring Internet sites to remove birth dates and ages of entertainers upon their request. The legislature enacted the law, Assembly Bill 1687, in September 2016. The new statute has been criticized as unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In November 2016, IMDb filed sued the state of California in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to have the statute invalidated. On February 22, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria issued a preliminary injunction restraining the government from enforcing the law pending trial, writing, "It's difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment."
- Kenneally, Tim; Chelin, Pamela (January 6, 2012). "IMDB "Jane Doe" plaintiff reveals her real name". Reuters. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
- "Amazon Age Lawsuit Actress Identifies Herself". Sky News. January 7, 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
- Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al., no. 11-cv-01709, (W.D. Wash., filed Oct. 13, 2011); retrieved from PACER, Apr. 12, 2013
- Johnson, Gene (2012-01-06). "Actress who sued Amazon over age IDs herself". Associated Press. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
- Kennally, Tim (March 20, 2013). "Actress Junie Hoang suing IMDb.com for revealing her age". Toronto Sun. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
- Ciepley, Michael (March 20, 2013). "Actress’s Suit Against IMDb for Publishing Her Actual Age Can Go to Trial". New York Times. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
- Johnson, Gene. "Wash. jury rejects claim of actress who sued IMDb". Associated Press. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
- "Actress age claim against IMDb rejected". BBC News. April 12, 2013. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
- Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al no. 11-cv-01709, W.D. Wash., Notice of Appeal (May 5, 2013), retrieved from PACER, August 8, 2013.
- Kenneally, Tim (May 8, 2013). "'Jane Doe' actress appeals IMDb verdict". Global Post. Thomson Reuters. Archived from the original on September 12, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
- Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al, no. 13-35390, 9th Cir., docket report, retrieved from PACER, August 25, 2014.
- Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al, no. 13-35390, 9th Cir., order (November 4, 2013), retrieved from PACER, December 30, 2013.
- Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al, no. 13-35390, 9th Cir., clerk order (February 4, 2014), retrieved from PACER, April 14, 2014.
- Huong Hoang v. IMDb.com, Inc. no. 13-35390 (9th Cir. Mar. 27, 2015) at 4 n.1
- "Calendar for Seattle, Washington". United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
- Gardner, Eriq (February 6, 2015). "Appeals Court Hears the Scary Things That Can Happen to Actors Who Lie to IMDb". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
- Gardner, Eriq (March 27, 2015). "IMDb Preserves Legal Win Over Revelation of Actress' Age". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
- "Acting unions criticise IMDb in age row". BBC News. October 28, 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
- Parker, Ryan; Handel, Jonathan (September 24, 2016). "California Enacts Law Requiring IMDb to Remove Actor Ages on Request". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
- Cal. A.B. 1687, enacted Sep. 24, 2016
- Handel, Jonathan (September 27, 2016). "New California IMDb Age Law Probably Unconstitutional, Experts Say". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
- Cullins, Ashley (November 10, 2016). "IMDb Sues to Invalidate California's Actor Age Censorship Law". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
- Hipes, Patrick (November 11, 2016). "IMDb Sues California To Overturn Actors Age Law". Deadline. Retrieved November 11, 2016.
- IMDb.com, Inc. v. Harris, no. 16-cv-06535, (N.D. Cal., filed Nov. 10, 2016)(complaint)
- Cullins, Ashley (February 22, 2017). "Judge Pauses Enforcement of IMDb Age Censorship Law". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
In the Northern District for California
- Doe v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al., original complaint (October 13, 2011)
- Doe v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al., order dismissing original complaint (December 23, 2011)
- Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al., first amended complaint (January 6, 2012)
- Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al., order dismissing some claims (March 28, 2012), via Santa Clara University School of Law's Digital Commons
- Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al., order dismissing all remaining claims except the breach-of-contract claim against IMDb (March 18, 2013)