While a spokesperson for Rose and GNR had not responded to requests for comment at press time, TorrentFreak spoke to Web Sheriff about the image, which argued that although Free Press staff photographer Boris Minkevich took the photos on assignment for the paper, he technically doesn't own the copyright on them. "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," Web Sheriff said in a statement.
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Bands often have photographers sign contracts that include clauses related to ownership of any images shot during performances. Some of those contracts specify that the act has the right to demand a photo only be used a certain number of times, for a specific outlet (or for a limited period) and occasionally that the performer has the right to take ownership of all images shot during their concerts. Minkevich, who could not be reached for comment at press time, told TorrentFreak he couldn't recall if he signed a contract while shooting the GNR show.
In a statement to sent to Billboard, Free Press Director of Photography Mike Aporius said Rose's reps have no right to the image, which has been re-posted without the paper's permission. "We’ve had a number of requests for comment on the circulating memes of Axl Rose based on a photo staff photographer Boris Minkevich took in Winnipeg in January of 2010," it read. "The Winnipeg Free Press holds editorial copyright on the image and has not approved any third-party usage. We were only recently made aware of these memes, and while we ethically don’t approve, viral media is impossible for us to regulate. Welcome to the jungle."