Streisand Effect


In 2003, a pilot Gabriele Adelman and photographer Kenneth Adelman decided to create a site with their photographs from the entire California coastline to document coastal erosion as part of the California Coastal Records Project. They posted photographs of the coastline in front of 12,000 California homes, one of which was of Barbara Streisand’s home. She sued the photographer $50 million citing anti-paparazzi laws.

The judge denied her request for an injunction, and issued an opinion stating that Miss Streisand had abused the legal process by filing the lawsuit, and that the photo was protected by the First Amendment and was not highly offensive to a “reasonable” person. Streisand had to pay Adelman his legal fees, which reportedly exceeded $250,000. In his opinion, the judge noted, Barbra Streisand had “granted reporters interviews in her home, permitted national magazines to publish photos of the home’s interior and its grounds, and opened her home to guests.”

Before the suit, almost nobody had seen Adelman’s website. The lawsuit generated so much attention that millions of people hit his site and the photo was picked up by the AP as newsworthy. The photo was spread over file-sharing networks, blogs, and other systems. Barbara’s tantrum caused the exact opposite effect that she had hoped for. Today, when someone tries to keep information from being distributed and it actually results in that information being massively distributed, the effect is referred to as the Streisand Effect.