Frightful Owner

January 16th, 2018
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

David Carton, one of fotoLibra’s valued contributors, has uploaded some of his images to specialist ecommerce sites as well as to fotoLibra.

Recently he was informed by one of these sites that they were removing one of his images, as the “rightful owner” of the image had sent them a Take-Down notice.

Carton was puzzled as to who this “rightful owner” could be as the image (shown below) was a scan of a 1902 ad for the long defunct Great Northern Railway in Ireland, and not attributed to any artist.



Naturally he asked for the Rightful Owner’s name. It was the Universal Music Group, claiming copyright on the image.

Why? UMG had done a search for GNR and issued take down notices for every image they could find which had GNR in the keywords.

Yes, but why? I did a Google search for GNR and found this:

  • GNR is the Great North Run — Newcastle Half Marathon
  • GNR Motors is a vehicle repair shop in the Midlands
  • GNR are one of the UK’s leading IT distributors
  • GNR is an abbreviation for the elderly American pop group Guns N’ Roses

The Great Northern Railway (Ireland), the subject of Carton’s image, does not appear high on the Google search list because it closed down in 1958.

But Guns N’ Roses do, and their agents UMG have sedulously trawled the internet to ensure the world ceases and desists from making even the tiniest profit through any association with the group. Their tsunami of threats has flooded to encompass the poor old Great Northern Railway (Ireland), defunct before the Guns N’ Roses singer was even born.

So to avoid the threat of litigation the ecommerce site capitulated and removed the image. Carton objected, and the site demanded that before they would even consider reinstatement he should agree to these conditions :

“a statement by you that you consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court, San Francisco County, California, United States and that you will accept service of process from the person who provided notification described above or an agent of such person;

“a statement by you that, under penalty of perjury, you have a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled.”


Oh, please. These guys simply caved in under corporate bullying. Carton let the matter drop, and the image is now freely available on the fotoLibra site. So now Mr Rose of the Guns N’ Roses beat combo can breathe a sigh of relief that his pockets aren’t being pilfered and go back to being a milkshake duck.

You Might As Well Jump.

Or was that someone else?


Add your comment


29 Responses to “Frightful Owner”

  1. David Carton says:

    Welcome to the jungle?

  2. john hlll says:

    Well done Fotolibra.

  3. John Short says:

    Copyright exists for 70 years after publication. This image is quite rightly in the Public Domain.

    Photo libraries the world over are full of images from Newspapers and publication from this date.

  4. Yes, it was someone else (Van Halen). Is any of this hassle worth the (presumably) few coppers the image might make from being licensed anyway? I mean, who want to use it?

    • David Carton says:

      You’d be surprised Stephen. I’ve given up predicting what things sell or not. I’ve not sold that particular image, but I licensed over a hundred images like it last year, as well as selling one offs. If you’re bringing out a book on the history of Irish railways it might be of use & if your dad worked on the railway it might make a nice gift. Like ordinary stock images you can have hundreds that never sell & some that sell over and over again.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Sorry, a feeble attempt at irony and faux ignorance. But we sell lots of these sorts of images — you (and I) would be surprised.

  5. Greed and sociopathic power gone mad. If everyone stood up to these creeps and hit back hard they would think twice. Well they have enough trouble thinking in the first place. Nice one.

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      There are Americans (I hate to say that) who spend their entire working lives ‘copyright chasing’. It’s about as honourable as those Indian gentlemen from Microsoft who ring me every week to tell me my computer has infected the internet. When I tell them I’m using a Mac they suddenly lose interest.

  6. MsWipz says:

    Ooooh thank you for a blast back to the 80’s and visions of the Mr ever sexy Dave Lee Roth to take back to my sick bed lol. I have a cold, saw this when I got up to grab a drink… Thanks Gwyn xxx

  7. Jani Anderson says:

    So pathetic! UMG is at fault here. Assholes.

  8. John Riley says:

    I experienced something similar when selling a small replica of the Rosetta stone on eBay. Apparently there’s a singer or group with that name. However, eBay looked at it, apologised and put it back online. Without any threats or disclaimers needed.

    • David Carton says:

      You were lucky John. The things I’ve had removed from ebay that they wouldn’t broker any argument on. I once had a set of vintage keys for railway carriages removed. They breached ebay policy because “someone could use them to impersonate an official and commit an act of terrorism” I kid you not. It was pointless pointing out to them that it was decades since automatic locking doors had come in, or that they actually had hundreds of adverts on ebay for “genuine” police shirts & fake warrant cards that would probably be more use in persuading a member of the public that they were an official rather than a rusty key! Then there was the WW I trench art vase that was removed because it was made from an old shell so it could conceivably be reconstructed (despite being cut in half) to use as an explosive device. I could go on, but it just makes me mad all over again….

    • Gwyn Headley says:

      Common sense prevailed!

  9. Barry Hitchcox says:

    Well said Glyn! How stupidly petty. Fotolibra as ever speaking up for sanity – and our rights.
    But what about the poor old GNR?, a major focus for railway enthusiasts and historians from all over. Avidly commemorated at this amazing Irish museum:-

  10. Trevor Bounford says:

    Yet more evidence that the lunatics are running the asylum. Wait! Am I allowed to use that terminology these days? Oh dear. And there might be a beat combo of that name.

  11. Derek Metson says:

    When we used to sell mounted old prints, eBay queried any WW1 prints that included the word gun. Never a real problem though.

    Harrods don’t like any shop with a name even beginning with H (or a capital A as Del Boy was once told) and using a similar type style.

    I wonder how the real Donald McDonald gets on with his real name….