'GIF Finder' Pulled from App Store Over Copyright Issues With Disney Characters [Updated x2]

GIF Finder creator Matt Cheetham today announced that his popular GIF curating app will be pulled from the App Store following a lengthy back-and-forth with Apple (via iPhone Hacks). Cheetham faced stonewalling from the company thanks mostly to a few copyright issues of Disney-related characters within the app.

Begun by Cheetham as a side project a few summers ago, the app used Tumblr and Imgur's APIs to discover and curate a collection of GIFs and images and distill them into categories or as search results for users to browse. It launched in 2012 and had nearly 90,000 downloads in the years since.

GIF-Finder-for-iOS-iPhone-screenshot-001

Image via iDownloadBlog

A recent update caused the app to crash on the iPad version when sharing a GIF, so Cheetham submitted an update to fix the issue. Instead of the usual okay from Apple, on January 25 he received a rejection notice for the update because the app "includes content or features that resemble various well-known, third-party marks, including Disney characters."

Thank you for your response. However, in order to proceed with your application, we require documentation demonstrating your right to use the images included in your app and/or metadata, specifically addressing your right to copyrighted images.

Otherwise, if you believe you can make the necessary changes to your application and/or metadata so that it does not infringe the rights of a third party, we encourage you to resubmit your revised application and/or metadata.

Cheetham pointed out that he doesn't directly own the images and proceeded to offer copyright, disclaimers, and links to the Tumblr and Imgur terms of service, but he admitted it "all has fallen on deaf ears." He ultimately relented, pulling the crash-prone app from the storefront upon Apple's repeated requests for documentary evidence of his ownership of the content.

At this point, I don't have the time or knowledge on how to fight this any further. I can't have an app in the store that I cannot support (and that crashes when attempting to use it's main function!), so today I am removing GIF Finder from sale and calling the project dead.

There's lots of other really great GIF Finding apps out there that are packed edge to edge with content from various API's. I wish them all the best with their next update and only hope they can continue to slip them in under the radar as I appear to have done for the last 3 years.

Apple and Disney's history is well-known, especially Steve Jobs' hand in the now Disney-owned Pixar Animation Studios, but Apple's crackdown on GIF Finder is unusual. GIF Finder has been in the App Store for three years without rousing attention and there are several other similar GIF apps in the App Store.

Apple has recently been enforcing App Store policies that it's been lenient about in the past, rejecting a number of apps that included screenshots of violence or guns, causing developers to modify the shots or remove the imagery all together before being able to update or release their apps at all.

Update 10:00 AM PT: Cheetham announced, via the GIF Finder Twitter page, that he has submitted an appeal to the App Store review board and is scheduling a call with Apple to go through the results of the appeal.

Update 11:04 AM PT: Cheetham now says his appeal has been heard and that GIF Finder will be returned to the App Store after he submits an update removing specific mentions of three image categories.

The rejection was largely due to the inclusion of 3 categories in the categories tab. "Doctor Who", "Nigel Thornberry" and "Star Trek" are the root of the problem. Apple has particular issue's with the copyright of these 3 categories which mean my app couldn't be approved. [...]

Richard was extremely polite and helpful and I'm very grateful for the speed at which this has all progressed. I've been assured that if I resubmit after removing these categories that my app will be approved and I can get it back into the store.

Cheetham also says he's been told any future rejections due to improper categories will include details on the issues rather than a simple form letter.

Top Rated Comments

dejo Avatar
84 months ago
If I was him, I'd try resubmitting with non-Disney GIFs in the screenshots and see if it would go through.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
coolfactor Avatar
84 months ago
My biggest problem with Apple's App Store policies is how they simply don't follow their own rules.

Example: Open Safari, go to google.com/images, and then type "Disney pictures".

So why does Safari get a pass when this GIF Finder is essentially the same thing; a search engine for images.

I suspect it's around the marketing of the app... the author has chosen several Disney characters to help sell this app, and yet those images have not been licensed from Disney. They may be freely available elsewhere, but that's not the point. It's how the author has chosen his marketing image. If I was Disney, and someone used my artwork to sell their app, but never shared the profits with me, I would be upset, as well.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
oliversl Avatar
84 months ago
Just stop including screenshots with Disney owned images on it to the iTunes store.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HenryDJP Avatar
84 months ago
Apple must have some idiotic new employee with barely any knowledge or reasoning power approving these apps.
Under this criteria, the Google, Bing, etc., apps should also be banned.

Or maybe Apple is tired of getting sued and wants to keep the App Store free of copyright infringement.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Amazing Iceman Avatar
84 months ago
Apple must have some idiotic new employee with barely any knowledge or reasoning power approving these apps.
Under this criteria, the Google, Bing, etc., apps should also be banned.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jettredmont Avatar
84 months ago
parody is fair use.

First, this is not parody in a legal sense. Second, "fair use" is a legal argument to overturn copyright infringement lawsuits, and as such is not an absolute.

The author can make this argument to the individual rights-holders and attempt to get their permission for any such content, or the author can integrate a filter into their app which does a best attempt at filtering out all content which is contested as owned by others along with a mechanism for that filter to be expanded as further unlicensed content is found.

I'm sorry, but the author of the app is completely in the wrong, and Apple allowing his app through could be construed as Apple being party to copyright infringement. Pointing to his source (imgur, etc) is not a defense; imgur may well be in the wrong too, but that isn't pertinent to the author's case nor to Apple's concern about being pulled in as codefendant. Imgur may in fact have a claim-and-removal system in place, but the results are obviously not sufficient to avoid copyright infringement by unfiltered use of its stream.

Moreover, there is a way for such an app to exist. It just needs to effectively filter out copyrighted images, and provide a mechanism to continue filtering those out. This would be a substantial amount of work for the developer to undertake, but certainly not impossible.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
a15 chip

iPhone 13 and Redesigned MacBook Pro Chip Production Hit With Gas Contamination

Friday July 30, 2021 5:44 am PDT by
The most important TSMC factory that manufactures Apple's chips destined for next-generation iPhone and Mac models has been hit by a gas contamination, according to Nikkei Asia. The factory, known as "Fab 18," is TSMC's most advanced chipmaking facility. TSMC is Apple's sole chip supplier, making all of the processors used in every Apple device with a custom silicon chip. Industry...
Apple watch series 5 new case material made of titanium 091019

Titanium Apple Watch Series 6 Models Currently Widely Unavailable

Sunday August 1, 2021 6:21 am PDT by
Models of the Apple Watch Series 6 with titanium cases part of the "Apple Watch Edition" collection is currently widely unavailable for pick-up in several of Apple's retail stores in the United States and is unavailable entirely for delivery in major markets. Noted by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman in the latest edition of his "Power On" newsletter, titanium models of the Apple Watch Series 6,...
iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 13 to Bring Over a Major Feature From the Apple Watch

Wednesday July 28, 2021 2:21 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will feature an always-on display akin to the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6, according to recent reports. In his weekly Power On newsletter, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman, who often reveals accurate insights into Apple's plans, said that the iPhone 13 may feature an Apple Watch-inspired always-on mode. The Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch...
apple rtp land

Apple Preparing to Occupy 200,000 Square Feet of Temporary Space Ahead of New $1 Billion North Carolina Campus

Thursday July 29, 2021 9:14 am PDT by
Back in April, Apple announced a $430 billion investment over the next five years to create more than 20,000 new jobs as the company continues to expand. One significant piece of that plan is a new engineering and research center in North Carolina where Apple will be investing over $1 billion and hiring at least 3,000 employees. Assemblage of seven properties in Research Triangle Park owned by ...
telegram

Bumper Telegram Update Enables Video Calls With Up to 1,000 Viewers

Saturday July 31, 2021 12:13 am PDT by
Telegram Messenger has received a major update to its video capabilities, including support for video calls with up to 1,000 viewers. Group video calls in Telegram allow up to 30 users to stream video from both their camera and their screen, and now a maximum of 1,000 people can tune into the broadcast. Telegram says it intends to continue increasing this limit "until all humans on Earth...
app store blue banner

Elon Musk: Apple's App Store Fees Are a 'De Facto Global Tax on the Internet'

Friday July 30, 2021 10:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter today to criticize Apple's App Store fees in a tweet that sides with Epic in the ongoing Epic v. Apple dispute. "Epic is right," wrote Musk, before going on to call Apple's App Store fees a "de facto global tax on the Internet." Musk earlier this week made veiled comments about App Store fees, but today's statement is a much more direct criticism....
FaceID iMac REREREREMIX

Top Stories: Face ID on Future Macs, Elon Musk Criticizes Apple, and More

Saturday July 31, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
This week saw an interesting range of Apple news and rumors, including a blockbuster earnings report, rumors about next year's "iPhone 14" and Face ID coming to Macs, and more. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Other popular topics included Apple's crackdown on leaks, changes in the latest round of betas for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey, and several stories...
duracell battery bitter coating

Apple Says Don't Buy AirTag Replacement Batteries With Bitter Coating

Wednesday July 28, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Since AirTags were just released earlier this year and are expected to have a year-long battery life, it may be some time yet before AirTag users need a replacement battery, but when the time comes for a refresh, Apple is warning customers not to buy batteries with a bitter coating. AirTags use coin-shaped CR2032 batteries, which happen to be a size that's easy to swallow. Some battery...