Axl Rose DMCAs Unflattering Photo For Which He Doesn't Hold The Copyright

from the by-any-other-name dept

Show of hands: who remembers Axl Rose? Last we here at Techdirt checked in on him, Rose was busy suing video games and hassling music bloggers over album leaks. The younger among you may chiefly be familiar with his Axl-ness via a somewhat popular string of internet memes centered on some rather unflattering pictures of the musician taken from a concert in 2010.

There are, like, tons of these. And, as you can surely understand, Rose isn’t pleased that these memes are going around. Hell, we all have photos taken of us that we probably don’t find flattering, and Father Time ends up foisting pounds and wrinkles on all of us that we’d rather not have. What most of us don’t do, however, is cook up a copyright claim on a photograph we didn’t take and try to get Google to remove every use of the picture from the internet. Rose has done that. And you’ll never guess who he employed to help him do so!

“Copyright image of Axl Rose. 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 notices sent by Web Sheriff on behalf of the singer read.

Hi there, Web Sheriff! In between money-laundering, abusing human rights, and generally breaking roughly all the laws over here at Techdirt, we had just enough time to notice you have a strange view on how copyright law works! This comes as only a mild shock to us, given how confused you folks appear to be on all the other laws you routinely talk about, but let’s give this a go, shall we?

The DMCA notices all revolve around photos taken in 2010 at a concert. Those photos were taken by Boris Minkevich and published by the Winnipeg Free Press.

TorrentFreak tracked down the photographer who captured this moment to see if he was aware of these takedown efforts. We eventually found Boris Minkevich at the Winnipeg Free Press where his fine work is published in all its glory. During our initial discussions a few things became clear. Firstly, Minkevich definitely took the photo. Second, Minkevich had no idea that Rose was trying to “cleanse the web” of his photo. Perhaps the first reaction here is that Rose has no right to take down Minkevich’s photo. Since Minkevich was the one who took it, he must own the copyright, right? Web Sheriff doesn’t seem to think so.

“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 AR’s relevant service company,” the company told TF in a statement.

Now, TorrentFreak reached out to Minkevich, who had no idea this takedown blitz was underway. He confirmed that some concerts do indeed make photographers sign these types of agreements, but couldn’t recall if this concert included one or not. Web Sheriff, who certainly should be able to produce the agreement, having taken the lead on the copyright claims, isn’t doing so. When asked, Web Sheriff’s response was instead to insist that even if the photographer had not signed an agreement — leading me to believe he probably didn’t –, that Rose would still be able to claim ownership over the photo.

“[If a photographer] was there and taking shots without permission or authority, then other considerations / factors would come-into-play as to what such individuals can and cannot do in terms of attempting to commercially exploit the resultant images of someone else’s show,” TF was informed.

I would politely ask Web Sheriff what the sweet child of mine it is talking about here. Unless the photographer transferred copyright of the photo over to Axl Rose, the photographer retains copyright ownership over it. One would think that if any transfer had actually taken place, Web Sheriff would simply produce it, but it hasn’t. If no transfer ever occurred, Web Sheriff is simply wrong in claiming copyright over the image. Indeed, Minkevich even mentioned to TorrentFreak that the photos are infringing, but that they are infringing on his and/or the Winnipeg Free Press’ copyrights. And even that may not be true, given the room that Fair Use carves for using copyright images.

And the best part of this is that Axl Rose employed Web Sheriff to do all of this to keep the unflattering images out of the public sphere. How is that working out for him?

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Comments on “Axl Rose DMCAs Unflattering Photo For Which He Doesn't Hold The Copyright”

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51 Comments
David says:

So?

It seems quite plausible to me that we are talking about unauthorized photographs that were not publishable due to violating venue rules and/or personality rights.

Rose being able to have them taken down is not really all that much out of line. And he’s using the simplest and easiest available tool with least repercussions for that, a DMCA.

That’s pretty much a no-brainer. It involves misuse of a tool only to be used for copyright violations, but it’s easy to use under any circumstance you want to without serious danger of repercussions for the necessary perjury.

On the overall scale of seriousness this kind of perjury registers rather low, almost as low as perjury before Congress by government officials while covering up systematic constitutional violations.

In other words, this is how the laws are intended to be applied according to their most important corporate sponsors.

It’s a dog-bites-man story, not really newsworthy. You can have hundreds of them each day.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: So?

It seems quite plausible to me that we are talking about unauthorized photographs that were not publishable due to violating venue rules and/or personality rights.

1. No.
2. You don’t get to claim copyright if you don’t have the copyright. End of story.
3. Even if they had violated the venue’s rules, the ONLY remedy is that the venue could then refuse future service, not get the posts removed.
4. If there was a publicity rights claim, that still doesn’t make it okay to lie about the copyright.

Rose being able to have them taken down is not really all that much out of line.

Please look up prior restraint. Thanks.

And he’s using the simplest and easiest available tool with least repercussions for that, a DMCA.

You mean misusing or abusing a tool for censorship without having a legitimatet claim. That’s not okay.

That’s pretty much a no-brainer

Abusing the law for censorship is a “no brainer”?

It involves misuse of a tool only to be used for copyright violations, but it’s easy to use under any circumstance you want to without serious danger of repercussions for the necessary perjury.

So you admit that there’s no real punishment for abusing the DMCA to censor content you have no right to censor?

In other words, this is how the laws are intended to be applied according to their most important corporate sponsors.

Huh?

It’s a dog-bites-man story, not really newsworthy. You can have hundreds of them each day.

I disagree and I run this place.

ryuugami says:

Re: Re: So?

Mike, you might want to check your sarcasm detector, I think you’re overreacting to this one. It seems to me that the original post is a cynical, sarcastic assessment of the situation as it is, not something the poster agrees with.

At least, that’s the impression I got from overall tone, especially the parts about laws working as intended by their corporate sponsors and “this kind of perjury registers rather low, almost as low as perjury before Congress by government officials while covering up systematic constitutional violations”.

He’s saying it’s perjury, but the courts are not enforcing it, which is exactly the problem with DMCA. I believe you’ve pointed it out yourself a few times 🙂

beltorak (profile) says:

Re: Re: So?

Wait, you’re replying to this guy, does that mean he’s serious? I thought it was satire. Seriously. I LOLed almost all the way through it. I mean,

> On the overall scale of seriousness this kind of perjury registers rather low, almost as low as perjury before Congress by government officials while covering up systematic constitutional violations.

Well, maybe that part wasn’t facetious. That one seems dead on.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: So?

Wait, you’re replying to this guy, does that mean he’s serious? I thought it was satire. Seriously.

If it’s any consolation to you, I cannot tell the difference either when reading about the U.S. political and judicial system.

Tom Lehrer stated about 50 years ago “Political satire became redundant when Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize.” and things have been going downhill ever since.

I still don’t see the point in describing things how we wish they should be rather than how they are. If you want things to change, the first step is to stop lying about them.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:3 So?

Unless it’s made obvious, you can’t distinguish the satire online.

And whose fault is that?

I feel that it is the job of the U.S. government and administration to unambiguously establish the difference between being the subject of a joke and being a joke.

They are getting paid a hell of a lot more for that than I am.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So?

It involves misuse of a tool only to be used for copyright violations, but it’s easy to use under any circumstance you want to without serious danger of repercussions for the necessary perjury.

And you don’t see the persistent expectation of copyright law being consistently used as a “fuck you judge, bend your ass over” card as a problem?

DannyB (profile) says:

Web Sheriff might become the perfect test case

What better test case than Web Sheriff to get some kind of restraint on abusive DMCA takedowns. Could it possibly even lead to actual legislation to fix it?

Maybe Web Sheriff needs to go up against Google or Facebook in a real court battle where the DMCA takedown has no actual copyright issue AT ALL. Where no copyright can be produced. Where no specific copyright can be shown to actually be infringed. Extra credit: where Web Sheriff is not the copyright holder’s authorized agent (assuming that an actual copyright were in play here).

TMC says:

Just imagine how many dogs the Web Sheriff employees could buy with Axel Rose money.

Remember that guy that had heard somewhere that Web Sheriff employees can only achieve sexual release upon bashing a dog’s head in? Yeah, I still don’t believe that, and neither should you.

But if it was true, the bashed corpses of many a dog would be heaped on either side of Web Sheriff HQ. What a nasty, filthy, despicable rumor! Don’t believe it! Sure, Web Sheriff is equally vile, but that doesn’t mean we should believe they’d murder dogs in order to orgasm. I beseech the Internet to squelch this vicious, unfounded rumor.

TechDescartes (profile) says:

Watch Out for the Grammar Police

Hi there, Web Sheriff! In between money-laundering, abusing human rights, and generally breaking roughly all the laws over here at Techdirt, we had just enough time to notice you have a strange view on how copyright law works!

This is the first time I’ve seen a misplaced comma result in an admission of criminal activity. I believe Tim should have put the comma before “over here at TechDirt”, not after.

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