For 10 Years Everyone's Been Using 'The Streisand Effect' Without Paying; Now I'm Going To Start Issuing Takedowns
from the watch-it-get-even-bigger dept
I have to admit that I had no idea that it had been 10 years since I coined the term “The Streisand Effect” until the SkepticHistory Twitter feed called my attention to it earlier this week. I had thought about saving this for the weekend “this week in history” post, but it seems worth delving into today — especially with folks like the thieves at Gawker Media putting up a whole story about it and stealing all the attention and whatnot.
So, yeah, ten years ago this week, I coined “the Streisand Effect,” which was actually on a story about how the Marco Beach Ocean Resort was all offended by the fact that Urinal.net (a site that, yes, still exists and is still being updated) had posted a photo of a urinal from the resort, and the resort insisted that it was illegal to use its name. As we pointed out, this stupid takedown request would only draw more attention, and then we wrote:
How long is it going to take before lawyers realize that the simple act of trying to repress something they don’t like online is likely to make it so that something that most people would never, ever see (like a photo of a urinal in some random beach resort) is now seen by many more people? Let’s call it the Streisand Effect.
That last link then went back to a 2003 story about how Barbra Streisand had sued photographer Kenneth Adelman for photographing her house from a helicopter. Adelman had been photographing the entire California coastline, hoping to use it to document coastal erosion, and posted all the photographs online. Streisand got upset that her coastal home was shown, and sued. But, of course, before this, no one knew (or cared) that it was Streisand’s home. The image had been viewed six times (including twice by Streisand’s lawyers), but following the news of the lawsuit, hundreds of thousands of people went to see the photo. It was a story that stuck with me, and seemed to be repeated every few months in some form or another. So when I saw that Urinal.net threat, I just jokingly said we should call such things “The Streisand Effect.”
I didn’t think much about it until I saw it mentioned in a few other places a year or two later, including showing up in articles n Forbes and eventually leading to an interview on All Things Considered on NPR.
But, anyway, it’s been ten years of this and you’ve all had your fun, getting to use my personal creation, my sweat and tears and labor, and all of it for free. So I’m going to start issuing cease & desist letters to anyone who uses The Streisand Effect and doesn’t pay my royalties. We’ve set up a simple site where you can go and see the royalty rates, as well as make an easy payment. We even will offer amnesty for past usage if you pay a one time fee. We’ve also hired some of the best Spanish lawyers to explore ways to demand payments from additional sites as well.
Obviously, this is necessary or else how would I have had the incentive to create the term in the first place? All these people benefiting off of my hard work, my labor, the sweat of my brow are freeloading off of my property. And it has to stop now. “The Streisand Effect” is a valuable concept and I’m sick of all the freeloaders. It will stop and we should start to see it disappearing from unpaid use soon, thanks to my auto-C&D sender system.*
* Because this is the internet and because there are still some satire-impaired people out there, yes, this is a joke (and yes, that includes the bit up top about Gawker being thieves). I mean, other than the fact that issuing a bunch of cease & desist letters should, in theory, lead to a purposeful “Streisand Effect” purposely generating more attention for the term, which would be pretty neat. On a more serious level, it really was an off-hand joke made a decade ago, and I’m still amazed that it caught on and became such a big deal. I’m happy that it’s a useful shorthand and hope that it actually served its key purpose in succinctly getting the point across about the stupidity of trying to take down content….