IMDb Alters Policy on Publication of Birth Names (EXCLUSIVE)

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IMDb has revised its birth name policy and will allow industry professionals to remove their birth names in response to feedback from transgender customers and other entertainment industry leaders.

The issue arose in June after a coalition of national LGBTQ groups objected to IMDB’s continued publication of the birth names of transgender performers and people in the entertainment industry without their consent — a practice commonly called “dead-naming.” An IMDb spokesperson revealed the altered policy on Monday.

“IMDb now permits the removal of birth names if the birth name is not broadly publicly known and the person no longer voluntarily uses their birth name,” the spokesperson said.

“To remove a birth name either the person concerned or their professional industry representative simply needs to contact IMDb’s customer support staff to request a birth name removal,” the spokesperson added. “Once the IMDb team determines that an individual’s birth name should be removed — subject to this updated process — we will review and remove every occurrence of their birth name within their biographical page on IMDb.”

The IMDb spokesperson also said for birth name removal requests pertaining to titles in which a person was credited on-screen as their birth name, their credited name will remain listed in the credits section of applicable IMDb name and title pages in parentheses.

“This is in order to continue providing IMDb’s hundreds of millions of customers worldwide with comprehensive information about film and TV credits, thereby preserving the factual historical record by accurately reflecting what is listed on-screen,” the spokesperson said.

SAG-AFTRA announced on June 26 that a coalition of national LGBTQ groups was backing the union in its fight for member privacy against IMDb. The groups include 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.

SAG-AFTRA has also appealed a federal judge’s 2018 ruling barring California’s legislation from requiring that subscription entertainment database sites remove an actor’s age, if requested by the actor. U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria issued the ruling on Feb. 20, 2018, backing IMDb’s 2016 lawsuit attempting to invalidate AB 1687.

IMDb — a subsidiary of Amazon — had contended in its suit that the law, which applies only to subscription sites such as IMDb Pro, was unconstitutional. SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said Tuesday that the new policy does not go far enough.

“While this half-measure is a step forward in protecting the personal safety of and reducing employment discrimination for transgender people, in revising its birth name policy, IMDb admits to invading the privacy of performers and putting them at risk for discrimination. IMDb can make no principled distinction to justify its arbitrary choices about when to invade the privacy of performers,” said Carteris.

“IMDb has more work to do,” she added. “SAG-AFTRA and its allies continue to fight to protect all performers and for enforcement of California’s anti-age discrimination law. This change in birth name policy should help make it clear to the appellate judges that the harm here is fundamental and compelling, and that California law AB 1687 is necessary in order to remedy IMDb’s discriminatory practice.”

Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Transgender Media also said the policy change is not enough.

“Revealing a transgender person’s birth name without permission is an invasion of privacy that can put them at risk for discrimination,” he said. “IMDb’s new policy is a step in the right direction and gives some transgender professionals in the entertainment industry the dignity and respect that they’ve long deserved – however, it remains imperfect. Trans people with credits under their old name for work in front of or behind the camera will still be affected by IMDb’s determination to publish outdated information.”

“The platform still has a long way to go in maintaining the privacy of all the entertainment industry professionals listed on the site. GLAAD and SAG-AFTRA, along with trans people working in Hollywood, will continue to advocate that IMDb create policies that respect everyone’s privacy and safety.”

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