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Revisiting the Streisand Effect

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

In May 2003, Barbara Streisand sued photographer Kenneth Adelman in a California Superior Court for USD $10M for invasion of privacy, misappropriation of the right to publicity, and violation of the Anti-Paparazzi Act over the posting of Image 3850, which was an aerial photograph from among 12000 aerial photographs documenting coastal erosion on the California coast. The 12000 photographs were posted on Mr. Adelman's website, as part of his California Coastal Records Project, which was intended to influence government policymakers to take action against coastal erosion. Ms. Streisand's took offense with Image 3850 because her Malibu home was visible from the aerial shot.

Superior Court Judge Allan J. Goodman dismissed Ms. Streisand's lawsuit holding that the complaint was an attempt to silence Mr. Adelman's speech about a matter of public concern, specifically, the protection of California's coastline, in violation of the California anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute. In his dismissal, Judge Goodman ordered Ms. Streisand to pay Mr. Adelman's legal fees in the amount of USD $177,000.00.

While Ms. Streisand initiated the lawsuit in an attempt to protect her privacy, the filing of the lawsuit led to increased public awareness of Ms. Streisand's home. Prior to the lawsuit, Image 3850 had been downloaded six times with two of those six downloads having been carried out by Ms. Streisand's lawyers. After the lawsuit was filed, Mr. Adelman's website had increased traffic to the tune of 420,000 people visiting the site over the next month. In 2005, Mike Masnick of Techdirt coined the term "the Streisand Effect" when explaining that attempts to repress something on-line only makes that thing more visible. Mike Masnick, "Since When Is It Illegal to Just Mention a Trademark Online?" Techdirt (January 5, 2005).

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