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Take Me Down: Axl Rose Calls Mean Memes Copyright Violations

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on June 09, 2016 3:58 PM

The Internet is not like Paradise City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. It can be a mean space, and aging online is difficult for celebrities especially. People who were once adored understandably don't like it when they are mocked. That's what's happening to Axl Rose, the Guns n' Roses lead, and he told Google to make it stop.

But the best way to guarantee a person will be the laughingstock of the web is to complain that it's not fair that people are poking fun and to demand that unflattering images be taken down. Rose has done that 11 times since May 31, reports NBC News. All he seems to have accomplished with these demands is to inspire more mean memes and wider circulation of the offending images.

Demanding Justice

Axl Rose uses an agent, a British company called Web Sheriff, to make his take-down demands to Google. The tech company then passes those along to Harvard University's Lumen Database, which lists the information, along with the requester and their agent. The Web Sheriff has reportedly made least 11 requests on behalf of the Guns n' Roses lead in recent weeks citing copyright violations. The requests reportedly center on the "Fat Axl Rose" meme, one of which shows Rose now with the message, "Remember the 80s? He ate them."

But Axl will have to develop a sense of humor or a very thick skin because these memes are not clearly copyright violations. They employ his images satirically and satire is fair use in intellectual property law.

Fair Use

Without exceptions for fair use, there would be no serious or silly cultural critique possible. The law allows people to use coyrighted work without permission from the owner to allow for reviews, discussion, analysis, and more, including mockery. There are many limits on fair use, of course, but the Fat Axl meme does seem to fall under this exception, and it seems destined to become a classic of Internet humor, just like the Guns n' Roses lyrics the offending images often reference.

Is It Fair?

It's true that the memes about Axl Rose are insensitive. If they were about a woman celebrity there might be some outcry and talk of body shaming instead of amusement at the star's outrage. The memes are also not examples of comedic genius. But they are occasionally amusing, playing on now-classic Guns n'Roses lyrics. One such image shows a now much-filled-out Axl Rose accompanied by the phrase "sweet pie o' mine."

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