In IMDb Privacy Case, 9th Circuit Rejects Hoang’s Appeal

Hoang alleged that IMDb improperly used her personal information to find out her real age and published her real age on its website. She argued that this harmed her employment prospects in the industry. The jury ruled for IMDb. Hoang appealed.

On appeal, Hoang raised two issues (1) the trial court abused its discretion in not granting Hoang additional discovery because her initial lawyer was sick and ultimately passed away, and (2) the jury instructions wrongly placed the burden on her to prove that she was not in breach of the IMDb subscriber agreement.

The Ninth Circuit affirms in a short memo opinion issued a mere month and a half after argument. The first issue fell well within the district court’s discretion. The second issue, even if it constituted error, was harmless:

First, the jury more likely than not concluded that the Subscriber Agreement permits and contemplates exactly what IMDb did, i.e., use the name Hoang provided to IMDb to improve the accuracy of the information on the site and to respond to her requests. Second, the jury more likely than not concluded that running Hoang’s legal name through a public records database did not constitute “sharing” Hoang’s confidential information in a manner prohibited by the Subscriber Agreement. Third, the jury more likely than not concluded that IMDb’s publication of Hoang’s true birthdate, which it obtained from a public records database, did not breach the Subscriber Agreement.

It’s sort of a bummer to see what could have been the first appellate ruling dissecting a privacy policy fizzle. All three of the above issues are fairly interesting and points that privacy policy drafters should keep in mind.

The court, like the jury and the district court judge, thought there was no “there there”.

Other coverage: Eriq Gardner: IMDb Preserves Legal Win Over Revelation of Actress’ Age (“The opinion appears crafted to be a modest one that won’t set any precedent for other digital privacy disputes”)

Case citation: Hoang v., Inc., 13-35390 (9th Cir. Mar. 27, 2015)

Related posts:

Hoang v. IMDb Argued in the Ninth Circuit

Privacy on Trial: Reflections on Hoang v. IMDb

Actress Suing IMDB Can Assert Claim Based on Privacy Policy – Hoang v., Inc.

IMDB’s Disclosure of Actress’s Age Will Go To Trial – Hoang v. Amazon