Interesting litigation: IMDB ages and Canadian hyperlinks
Two interesting cases that are worth watching.
In the US, an “up and coming” actress from Texas is suing Amazon in US District Court over the fact that her age appears on its Internet Movie DataBase (IMDB) website. The plaintiff, represented by attorney John W Dozier Jr, pleads that:
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-manager, etc. do not give her the same opportunities, regardless of her appearance or talent.
Plaintiff has experienced rejection in the industry for each ‘40-year-old’ role for which she has interviewed because she does not and cannot physically portray the role of a 40-year-old woman.
By far the best report is AP’s, which makes it clear that
She provided credit card information — and her real name — when she bought the service, according to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court against Seattle-based IMDb and its parent company, Amazon.com.
IMDb used that information to uncover her date of birth, which also isn’t disclosed, and added it to her profile on the website, “revealing to the public that Plaintiff is many years older than she looks,” the lawsuit says.
[According to her attorney, a] key issue in the case will be whether IMDb is immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act…The act ensures that providers of interactive computer services — think Google — will not be liable for defamatory information published by another content provider.
If IMDb is publishing research it itself has done on the personal details of actors and actresses, it should not be immune from lawsuits…
The implications for Wikipedia could be interesting. While that site decries “original research”, that doesn’t usually refer to looking up information in other sources, and citing those when inserting that information into an article. Would the same cause of action also lie against a newspaper using the age of an individual to distinguish them from others with the same name?
Meanwhile, the Canadian Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether linking to defamatory content is the same as publishing it. If they hold that it is, this would have significant implications for defamation law in Canada, as it would impose liability on those creating links.
The implications for free speech are significant, but the impact upon now-well-established patterns of behaviour online would be far greater, deterring people from linking to content. The logic behind the case isn’t as flawed as it might appear – the appellant is arguing that inserting a hyperlink is an invitation to follow that hyperlink, and that it may even amount to endorsement. I’d be surprised if the Canadian Supreme Court accepted that argument, but it’s certainly a case to watch. The judgement will appear here when published.