Axl Rose wanting Google to wipe out the 2010 memories of weight gain that became a fat-shaming Internet meme bring up a few interesting questions for marketers relating to free speech.
Can brands be shamed? Individual marketers who consider themselves brands may want to sue for copyright infringement on offending content. Will Google listen? Does it matter if said brand was an advocate of free speech — ahem, Rose of the “get in the ring, mother$%@*!^” lyric?
After Rose’s request to have Google remove the memed versions of his image began trending on Facebook on Tuesday and continued to do so through Friday, the June 5 article on TorrentFreak.com — “Axl Rose Sends DMCA Notices to Google Targeting ‘Fat’ Photo” — got a lot of attention. Perhaps more attention than the meme itself. It even prompted a stereotypically polite Canadian piece in the newspaper that employed the photojournalist who took the picture in 2010. On June 6, the Winnipeg Free Press ran “Free Press Picture Sullied by Internet’s Cruel Crudeness.”
But what should individual marketers who consider themselves brands learn from the Rose dilemma?
Marketers May Bring More Negative Attention on Themselves
I’m not the only one who’d never seen the meme before Tuesday. Gregg Nicholl says on Friday on Facebook: “Wow! That doesn’t even look remotely like the Axel Rose I remember ‘back in the day!’ I can understand him being upset with an unflattering pic but, man, I think he ought to be concerned with his health.”
In fact, this is how I remembered Rose:
Then I saw this:
But Rose now actually looks like this:
In 2014, actress Alyssa Milano was fat-shamed after she gave birth. She reacted on social media in a way that made fans adore her even more.
.@jaymohr37 So sorry you felt the need to publicly fat-shame me. Be well and God Bless. Please send my love to your beautiful wife.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) December 26, 2013
Also, at the time she looked like this:
Here’s Milano in 2016:
The Request to Take Down Content May Appear to Be Censorship to the Target Audience
What free speech? Marketers may want to create content that some consumers may not like. For instance, look at any of the lyrics Rose sings.
His band’s fans use social media. They regularly share his lyrics, memories of concerts and on and on. This adds to his bottom line.
As for the hypocrisy angle switching from free speech to copyright infringement, what liquor brand does this Guns N’ Roses poster recall?
Google Has to Understand That the Brand Actually Owns the Content
In Rose’s case, he’s trying to claim that the photojournalist and his newspaper don’t own the 2010 image of Rose. Rose told Google the photojournalist took the picture at a Guns N’ Roses concert, which was a private event, and therefore a copyright infringement and blah, blah, blah …
“Google hasn’t complied with the requests to remove the images and all remain up and accessible,” reads TorrentFreak.com and Target Marketing found this meme up on the Web as of Friday. “That may be because Google believes that Axl Rose doesn’t own the photo and that the copyrights sit with Minkevich and/or the Winnipeg Free Press. Clearly, Axl Rose thinks otherwise but as pointed out by [Boris] Minkevich to TF, the images being targeted on Blogspot are definitely infringing, although perhaps not in the way Axl might’ve hoped. ‘Either way, the photo was stolen off our website with no permission granted by the Winnipeg Free Press,’ [Minkevich] concludes.”