Is Leveraging The Streisand Effect Illegal?
from the a-new-anti-streisand-attack dept
A couple years ago, I jokingly coined the phrase “The Streisand Effect,” to describe an increasingly common phenomenon. Someone would get upset about something they didn’t like online and would have some lawyers send out a nasty cease-and-desist letter to get it taken offline. Such a plan would usually backfire, because getting the lawyers involved would end up drawing much more attention to whatever it was that the lawyers were trying to suppress. The name came from a story from a few years earlier, where Barbara Streisand got upset over a project that involved photos of the entire California shoreline, taken from a helicopter. Her complaint was that her seaside mansion was included among the photos. Of course, before she filed the lawsuit, almost no one knew that. Afterwards, the photo became an internet hit. Since that time, the phrase has grown in popularity — though, it seems that plenty of folks still don’t quite understand it. However, it was only a matter of time until lawyers came up with a way to flip the Streisand Effect around, and use it to their advantage.
Back in May, we had the surprising story of how the head of Sharman Networks (makers of Kazaa, and general pariah of the the recording industry) had sued P2Pnet, an amateur news/blog focusing on file sharing and related issues. It was surprising that she would sue a site that tended to support her position, but her complaint concerned some comments on the site that weren’t written by the site’s owner, but a visitor (raising plenty of valid questions about liability). The Register now informs us that part of the lawsuit has been dropped, but part of it continues. Sharman itself has dropped out of the case, but Nikki Hemming is still suing the site. This was a classic Streisand Effect case, where almost no one remembered or cared about the specific comments she was upset about — but which have since received a lot more attention. That’s where things get interesting. Hemming’s lawyers have updated the lawsuit to claim: “the publicity generated by the lawsuit and subsequent P2Pnet web site hits will counter Newton’s legal costs resulting in ‘a net profit and ensuring the permanent success of [Newton’s] P2P Website.'” It really is a unique strategy: accuse the person you’re suing of profiting from the attention you brought him by suing him.