California Intellectual Property Blog


#AxlRose claims #Copyright Infringement in Trying to Remove Unflattering Photos

pieOrange County – Axl Rose, the lead singer of Guns N’ Roses, is demanding that Google take down several unflattering images of him that have been used as part of an Internet meme mocking his physical appearance and weight. In 2010, a Winnipeg Free Press photographer covered a Guns N’ Roses concert, taking photos of Axl Rose. The images ran with the newspaper’s review of the concert. The photos were then seen and used by Gauntlet, a heavy metal news site, which republished the photos under the headline: “OMFG Axl Rose is fat.”

This was the start of the “Fat Axl” Internet meme trend that involves rewriting Guns N’ Roses song lyrics to the appearance of the image, which exists entirely to mock his weight. Now Rose has decided enough is enough by demanding that Google take down the unflattering pictures. Google has received many DMCA copyright notices requesting the removal the images from the Internet.

The notices are targeted on multiple memes but they all have the same idea behind them. One image is captioned, “take me down to the bakery city/where the pies have cream and the cakes are tasty.” Another one of the images includes the message, “Remember the 80s? He ate them.” There are several others like this. The wording is paired with cropped versions of a photo taken during a concert.

The notices read: “Copyright image of Axl Rose,” filed by British company, Web Sheriff, on behalf of Rose. “Please note that no permission has been granted to publish the copyright image so we cannot direct you to an authorized example of it.” The complaints are available for the public at Harvard University’s Lumen Database. It lists more than 11 requests made on behalf of the Axl Rose.

But there might be a problem with Rose’s copyright-based strategy in this case: there is a question of who truly owns the copyright of the photographs in dispute. Boris Minkevich, who works for Winnipeg Free Press, took the original photos that are the center of the recent copyright notices. Minkevich sent out requests for comment along to the paper’s photography and multimedia director Mike Aporius, who said the Winnipeg Free Press owns the editorial copyright for the photos. They claim they have never approved any third-party usage.

WebSheriff, on behalf of Rose, released a statement arguing that Rose owned the copyright to the photos, because “all official/accredited photographers at [Axl Rose] shows sign-off on ‘Photography Permission’ contracts/‘Photographic Release’ agreements which specify and limit the manner in which the photos can be exploited and transfer copyright ownership in such photos to Axl Rose’s relevant service company.” Minkevich says he doesn’t remember what he signed, if anything, when he was photographing the show in 2010.


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