IMDb officially moved to change its policy regarding birth names on the platform, an issue LGBTQ groups and transgender actors took issue with.
IMDb will now allow its users to remove birth names “if the birth name is not broadly publicly known and the person no longer voluntarily uses their birth name,” a spokesperson said in a statement to EW.
It has to do with “dead-naming,” when people, specifically those in the transgender community, are called their previous names instead of their chosen names.
In April, two anonymous trans actors told IndieWire that IMDb was still publishing their birth names without their consent and they received a “non apology” in response. Multiple LGBTQ groups urged IMDb to change the policy, going as far as to side with SAG-AFTRA’s fight against IMDb on member privacy.
On Monday, IMDb’s new rule was announced.
“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 said. “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.”
Regarding people credited on screen as their birth name, the “credited name will remain listed in the credits section of applicable IMDb name and title pages in parentheses.”
This, per IMDb, “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.”
GLAAD noted this caveat will not just affect actors, but below-the-line professionals like cinematographers, editors, and production designers. “This policy means their private gender history is disclosed to potential employers whenever they apply for a new job,” the organization said in a press release.
GLAAD states its reps reached out to IMDb and parent company Amazon to explain this point further.
“Revealing a transgender person’s birth name without permission is an invasion of privacy that can put them at risk for discrimination,” GLAAD’s director of transgender media, Nick Adams, said in a separate statement. “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,” Adams continued. “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.”
SAG-AFTRA also chimed in on the policy with a statement from president Gabrielle Carteris. “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,” she said. “IMDb can make no principled distinction to justify its arbitrary choices about when to invade the privacy of performers.”
Variety was the first to report the news.
This article has been updated with statements from GLAAD and SAG-AFTRA.