Axl Rose, Guns N’ Roses frontman, has sought to employ the take down provisions of the US’s DMCA – or Digital Millennium Copyright Act – to demand Google remove certain concert images of him from their search engine.
While it seems at least part of Rose’s motivation is removing unflattering pictures from circulation, he is relying on copyright to achieve the desired result, asserting that the images are in fact his property and their publication without permission constitutes copyright infringement.
While the images were taken by Canadian photographer Boris Minkevich and first published in the Winnipeg Free Press, Rose’s ownership claim is based on the fact that all photographers were required to sign a release form upon entering the concert in question, in which they assigned rights to Rose. Minkevich has reportedly stated that he doesn’t recall whether he did or did not sign a release.
The DMCA is the Act that officially codified and criminalized internet piracy in America in 1998, allowing copyright holders to request the removal of copyrighted content from the internet.
Since its inception however, and despite the positive intentions that originally lead to its enactment, there has been growing concern that copyright owners are misusing the regime to stifle fair use of copyright protected works.
Back in 2010, Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy non-profit stated: “By banning all acts of circumvention, and all technologies and tools that can be used for circumvention, the DMCA grants to copyright owners the power to unilaterally eliminate the public’s fair use rights.”
Still, as the Guardian pointed out today, the action taken by Rose has in fact lead to greater exposure of the images and associated proliferation of “Fat Axl” memes such as “take me down to bakery city” and “sweet pie o’mine”: “Rose might feel the meme is detracting attention from Guns’n’Roses’ forthcoming tour… But then again, most people probably wouldn’t have heard of it if he hadn’t started issuing DMCA takedown requests.”
Google has not yet acted on Rose’s requests to have the images removed.