In the past couple of weeks representatives for Axl Rose have issued about a dozen takedown notices to Google trying to get the site to remove supposedly unflattering images of the Guns N’ Roses frontman from the internet after they were used in a meme calling him fat. This was not a good idea.
Aside from the fact that it smacks to some as censorship, Rose’s move appears to have completely backfired. Not only has Google not removed the images, as you can see from this Google Trends chart, interest in the #FatAxl meme has surged since it was reported by TorrentFreak on Sunday that he was trying to have the images scrubbed.
The #FatAxl meme dates back to 2010, according to the website Know Your Meme. In essence, people are calling Rose fat and then taking photos of him and transposing on them altered song lyrics to mock Rose’s weight.
Reserving judgment on the value of such a meme, the attempt to remove images from the internet because they are unflattering and used for the purposes of ridicule feels a bit like attempted memory holing. As mentioned, this didn’t work.
Know Your Meme reports that the meme began in 2010 when the website the Gauntlet published a post titled “OMFG Axl Rose Is fat” with a shot of Rose taken by photographer Boris Menkevich. In 2011, more mainstream outlets started to pick up on the trend. Vice published a post titled “Axl Rose Got Fat” with a separate image and a few days later a BuzzFeed community user published a post using the newer photo with some superimposed lyrics.
This is when interest in the subject of “Fat Axl” initially spiked according to the Google Trends site that measures popularity of Google searches.
Both of these images went on to be used in various memes. The thing went away for a while. Then Rose issued his takedown notice at the end of May and on Sunday, mainly targeting the original Menkevich photo and its variations.
Again, this was not a wise idea. TorrentFreak noticed the takedown calls on the website the Lumen Database, which tracks these things, published an article on the topic, and it took off all over again. This week, the meme has been searched for more than anytime since 2011, and the number of searchable “Fat Axl” images has only increased.
On top of everything, Rose might not even own the copyright to the photo he is trying to have removed. Minkevich, a Winnipeg Free Press photographer, told TorrentFreak that he was unsure if he signed a form giving over copyright permissions to Rose, which his representatives say is required of credentialed photographers at his concerts. Web Sheriff, the group representing Rose in the takedown request, also claimed that even if Minkevich owns the photos, if a photographer was “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.”
Minkevich is not commercially exploiting the image, obviously, and it’s hard to say that the meme purveyors are either, but there you go.
The lesson here for all prominent human beings seems to be this: Do not try to censor internet trolls. It will only end badly for you.