Internet Lawyer to Rock Star Axl Rose: Watch Out for ‘The Streisand Effect’

Axl Rose, you may want to pay attention to this piece of advice. The Guns N’ Roses front man is trying to stop an Internet meme, one that has been dubbed “Fat Axl, as the pictures show the star a bit heavier than normal. The unflattering photos of a heavier Axl Rose have appeared on the Internet with altered lyrics to some Guns N’ Roses songs. Memes like “Welcome to the Jungle, we got tons of cake” or “Sweet Pie o’ Mine. While fat jokes are never a good thing, Internet attorney Kenton Hutcherson of Hutcherson Law in Dallas says be careful what you wish for when trying to remove photos from the Internet, even in an issue as weighty – potentially – as this one.

It’s called ‘the Barbra Streisand Effect,’ says Hutcherson. If you take legal action to remove certain content, you might actually fail and attract more attention to the content. Hutcherson is referring to Babs. In 2003, the legendary singer tried to conceal photos of her Malibu, California home; the opposite occurred because the singer drew more publicity due to her actions.

From a legal standpoint, this is a copyright case; Rose is claiming any photographer shooting such photos would have to have attended one of his concerts, where photographers generally were required to sign a release indicating ownership of any photos belonged to Rose or the group. The photographer, who originally took the picture of the rocker at a concert in 2010, cannot remember if he signed a release giving Axl ownership of the photos. But is legal action really the best course? Especially since reporters already are writing about it. Hutcherson, who has built a practice representing people harmed on the web – and who has experience using the court system to compel Google and others to remove offensive content – says perhaps not. Learn to pick your battles on the web, says Hutcherson. And understand you can make the situation much worse.

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