Axl Rose Declares Legal War Against a Meme…

Guns n’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose is facing the wrath of the ‘Streisand Effect’.

This is a problem first realized by Barbara Streisand in 2003, so much so that it became known as ‘The Streisand Effect‘.  After the singer attempted to suppress and remove aerial images of her Malibu home, views of the photograph exploded.  More importantly, interest in the photograph went from virtually zero to a viral surge in traffic.  “It is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware something is being kept from them, their motivation to access the information is increased,” the Wikipedia entry for ‘Streisand Effect’ describes.

Now, 13 years later, Axl Rose is falling into the same trap.  But this time, there’s an internet population about 10 times the size, with ubiquitous, high-speed access and massive social media.  And instead of zero interest, the extremely unflattering picture of Rose has exploded into a very unflattering meme.

The photo, from a 2010 show in Winnipeg, Canada, shows an overweight Rose belting out a song in a picture anyone would prefer to erase (the photo is the second one down, here.)  Over at Meme Generator, the photo has become the basis for the ‘Axl Rose Fat’ meme.

Enter Web Sheriff, a company that aggressively patrols copyright online, and claims that the photograph itself is not authorized and neither a growing number of memes.  Web Sheriff claims that the photographer Boris Minkevich at the Winnipeg Free Press, didn’t have permission to disseminate the photograph based on a release contract signed at the gig (Minkevich doesn’t recall that contract, and the Winnipeg Free Press isn’t taking the picture down).

Accordingly, the original photo remains on display in full glory, with views of the image — not to mention the spread of different memes — exploding.  “Please be advised that no permission has been granted to publish the copyright image so we cannot direct you to an authorized example of it,” the Web Sheriff letter reads.  “We can gladly confirm that all official / accredited photographers at [Axl Rose] shows sign-off on ‘Photography Permission’ contracts / ‘Photographic Release’ agreements which A. specify and limit the manner in which the photos can be exploited and B. transfer copyright ownership in such photos to [Axl Rose’s] relevant service company,” the company further relayed to Torrentfreak.

The details over the copyright may require a legal battle, though in general, if a photographer snaps a photo in a public arena, that copyright belongs to the photographer.  That is, even if the subject being photographed doesn’t like the photo.  That’s a problem that has affected mega-stars like Beyonce and Taylor Swift, both of whom now impose heavy restrictions on photographers to prevent situations just like these.

More as the case develops.


One Response

  1. Anonymous

    “if a photographer snaps a photo in a public arena, that copyright belongs to the photographer”

    However, the photographer is not allowed to use the photo commercially without permission from everybody in the image. The photographer also needs to ask permission if any brands or private buildings are shown in the photo.