IMDb Faces Backlash From GLAAD and SAG-AFTRA for Publishing Trans Birth Names

The actor's union has been joined by a coalition of national LGBTQ groups in its fight for member privacy against IMDb.
Shutterstock / Gil C

With the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising approaching, SAG-AFTRA has announced that GLAAD and other LGBTQ groups have joined the actors’ union in the fight for member privacy. As first reported by IndieWire, IMDb publishes transgender actors’ birth names without their consent, despite numerous appeals. Now, groups including the National LGBTQ Task Force, the country’s oldest national LGBTQ advocacy group; GLAAD; the Transgender Law Center; the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund; Transcend Legal, Inc.; and Equality Federation have signed on to support SAG-AFTRA in the fight against IMDb profiting from performers’ private information.

SAG-AFTRA has been engaged in a legal battle with IMDb since early 2017, when it signed on as a sponsor of California’s anti-age discrimination law, known as AB 1687, which requires subscription-based entertainment casting databases like IMDbPro and to remove paid subscribers’ date of birth information upon request,” according to a statement by SAG-AFTRA. “In February 2018, a judge stopped enforcement of the law. SAG-AFTRA and its allies are currently appealing that ruling and expect an oral argument date in the Ninth Circuit by the end of the year.”

The coalition of LGBTQ advocacy groups are concerned about IMDb publishing the legal names of transgender performers and other entertainment industry professionals without their consent. SAG-AFTRA is hoping the issues will bolster the legal argument about the negative effects of publishing private information.

“Highlighting how IMDb is invading the privacy of transgender performers by publishing their birth names is another facet of this case that we hope will help make it clear to the appellate judges that the harm here is fundamental and compelling, and that the California law is necessary in order to remedy it,” said SAG-AFTRA General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “The court has so far failed to understand or recognize the massive impact the publication of this personal information can have on the careers and lives of working performers.”

Speaking to IndieWire in April on condition of anonymity, one actor affected by the current IMDb policy said: “It feels very exposing to have that information out there against my will as it is a private thing, and I would like to choose who I get to share it with. With all the trans-related violence and murder, it seems very obtuse to refuse to remove information that could quite literally put people in danger.”

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