Axl Rose attempted to force Google to remove unflattering images of him from the internet earlier this year. Now, the Guns N’ Roses singer is coming after websites that reported on the Fat Axl meme.
The Daily Dot received a DMCA takedown notice Tuesday morning sent on Rose’s behalf. It was issued by the Web Sheriff, an anti-piracy company out of the U.K. that helps clients protect their intellectual property and copyright claims. It’s typically employed to help artists, studios, and labels remove pirated content, especially leaks, from the internet, as well as any other unlicensed material.
Rose originally employed the Web Sheriff in June for a DMCA notice to Google, essentially claiming ownership of the concert photo—taken in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2010—that became the basis of the Fat Axl meme. The meme uses Guns N’ Roses lyrics—real or slightly altered—to poke fun at the singer’s physical condition at the start of the band’s highly anticipated reunion tour.
As the Daily Dot reported at the time:
The six takedown notices, issued on May 31, specifically reference the photo of Rose in white on the left, taken at a concert in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2010. TorrentFreak tracked down the photographer, Boris Minkevich of the Winnipeg Free Press, who was reportedly not aware Rose was trying to erase the photo from the internet.
But the takedown request gets more muddled when issues of who actually owns the copyright arise. Minkevich could not remember if he’d signed a release that specified who owns the rights but stated that the photo was taken from the Winnipeg Free Press website without permission.
A quick Google search shows that effort was in vain. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Fat Axl images out there. If anything, the initial DMCA request triggered the Streisand Effect, calling significant attention to the very thing the artist wants swept under the rug.
According to Know Your Meme, the Fat Axl meme originated in October 2011, when both Vice and BuzzFeed posted photos showing the frontman’s apparent weight gain. That spurred the creation of a Fat Axl page on Quickmeme on Oct. 10, but the image Rose is currently fighting wasn’t really used in memes until June 2012, when Meme Generator created a page called “Axl Rose is Fat.” (The photos have since been removed.)
The meme had a predictably short shelf life. Google Trends shows that after an initial spike, interest in the search term dropped off significantly—until Rose’s DMCA notice to Google went viral earlier this year.
Ironically, it’s the Daily Dot’s report on the original DMCA notice and our screengrab of Google search results that the Web Sheriff takes issue with.
Here’s the email we received:
Welcome to the internet, Axl. It’s a jungle out there.