In early 2010, a photographer covered a Guns N’ Roses concert, snapping photos of singer Axl Rose. The images accompanied the paper’s positive review of the show. Shortly after, however, they caught the attention of a heavy metal news magazine, which proceeded to republish the photos under a very different headline: “OMFG Axl Rose is fat.”
This was the beginning of the “Fat Axl,” meme that involves rewriting Guns N’ Roses songs to mock the appearance of 2010-era Rose.
It appears that Rose has finally had enough of it, too. Google received a slew of DMCA copyright notices over the past week requesting the removal of one of those images from the Internet.
However, with approximately 4.49 billion webpages on the internet, Axl may have a bit of a challenge ahead of him.
Not only that, but the band is set to go on a summer stadium tour that includes a July 1 stop at Soldier Field. This has only served to amplify the presence of the meme.
The copyright notices, filed on behalf of Rose, target several cropped versions of the original unflattering photo, along with others that have been fashioned into memes. One image is captioned, “take me down to the bakery city/where the pies have cream and the cakes are tasty.”
It’s entirely understandable why Rose would not like the “Fat Axl” meme, which exists entirely to mock his weight, but in his quest for removal of the images lies a small complication.
As TorrentFreak noted in its report on the complaints, the question of who actually owns the copyright to these photos is in dispute.
Winnipeg Free Press photographer Boris Minkevich took the original photos. Mike Aporius, the paper’s photography and multimedia director, said the Winnipeg Free Press owns the editorial copyright for the photos and hasn’t approved any third-party usage.
And the meme itself? “We were only recently made aware of these memes,” Aporius continued, “and while we ethically don’t approve, viral media is impossible for us to regulate. Welcome to the jungle.”
The company representing Rose, however, has a different story.
The company released a statement to TorrentFreak arguing that Rose owned the copyright to the photos, because “all official / accredited photographers at [Axl Rose] shows sign-off on ‘Photography Permission’ contracts.”
Rose isn’t the first celebrity to want a photo removed from the Internet, either. Celebrities like The Foo Fighters and even Beyoncé have had internet photo disputes.
This kind of situation has been deemed the Streisand Effect, for an incident in 2003 where Barbara Streisand tried — and ultimately failed — to erase an aerial picture of her mansion from an online database used by researchers who study coastal erosion.
The Internet truly is a jungle, and only time will tell if Axl will get his wish.