Judge Throws Out Suit Against Pilot
Singer Barbra Streisand's lawsuit against a helicopter pilot
accusing him of violating her privacy was thrown out of court
Wednesday. Not only that, but she's going to have to pay Ken
Adelman's legal fees -- estimated somewhere in the six-figure
"It was a clean sweep," Adelman (with wife and pilot
Gabrielle, above) said after the ruling. "We didn't win just
on a technicality, but on all the substantive issues. The judge
ruled that what we did was free speech and not an infringement of
Adelman, a 39-year old Silicon Valley millionaire, takes the
pictures while his wife, Gabrielle, flies the R-44. The helicopter
was flown southeast-bound along the coast at altitudes ranging from
150 to 2000ft, but typically 500-700ft, depending on the terrain,
detail, and air traffic control constraints. The port-side rear
door was removed, giving the photographer an unobstructed view of
Streisand sued Adelman for $50 million May
20th, after his website, which photographically traces
the California coast, published an aerial photograph of her estate.
The photographs were among about 12,700, many of which highlight
overdevelopment along the water's edge.
The lawsuit "sought to reaffirm that everyone should have the
right to retain their privacy, in their home, even in this
technologically invasive age," according to Streisand lawyer John
After the ruling, Adelman attorney Richard Kendall said Superior
Court Judge Allan Goodman sent a message: Environmental activists
have a right to fly where they want in public airspace and take
pictures of whatever they want. To have ruled any other way, said
Kendall, would have given the likes of Streisand "ownership" of
vistas and making them off-limits to photographers -- even from
several hundred feet above.
"That seemed absurd," Kendall said. "Many people familiar with
privacy law agreed with us that the case was not well-founded."
Wow. A lawyer with
Gatti said Judge Goodman's ruling was a tentative one. "The
court's tentative decision found that intrusion occurred. But the
court failed to accord Ms. Streisand a remedy."
He said Streisand would wait to see the final ruling before
deciding whether to appeal. If she decides to continue the suit,
Judge Goodman ruled she would first have to reimburse Adelman for
his big-time legal expenses.
Here's the funny part: Streisand's suit actually caused her
mansion more exposure than if she'd just left the whole thing
alone. Since the suit was filed, Adelman's site got hundreds of
thousands of hits, whereas it was relatively obscure to the general
Does this mean Adelman has to send a thank-you note?
Adelman says he'll use the legal reimbursement to expand his
site. Already, he's posted thousands of aerial shots from the
1970s. He plans to fly the entire length of California again,
taking pictures to provide comparisons, sort of a then-and-now view
of the coastline. And, yeah, you can bet he'll shoot Streisand's