'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
121 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
121 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
121 months ago
Just stop including screenshots with Disney owned images on it to the iTunes store.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HenryDJP Avatar
121 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
121 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
121 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)

Popular Stories

iOS 17

Troubling iOS 17.5 Bug Reportedly Resurfacing Old Deleted Photos

Wednesday May 15, 2024 5:29 am PDT by
There are concerning reports on Reddit that Apple's latest iOS 17.5 update has introduced a bug that causes old photos that were deleted – in some cases years ago – to reappear in users' photo libraries. After updating their iPhone, one user said they were shocked to find old NSFW photos that they deleted in 2021 suddenly showing up in photos marked as recently uploaded to iCloud. Other...
General Apps Messages

iMessage Down for Some Users [Update: Service Restored]

Thursday May 16, 2024 3:00 pm PDT by
The iMessage service that Apple users to send messages to one another appears to be down for some users, and messages are failing to go out or are taking an extra long time to send. There are numerous reports about the issue on social networks and a spike of outage reports on Down Detector, but Apple's System Status page is not yet reporting an outage. Update: Apple's status page says...
CarPlay Sound Recognition

Apple Previews Three New CarPlay Features Coming With iOS 18

Wednesday May 15, 2024 9:18 am PDT by
Apple today previewed new accessibility features coming with iOS 18 later this year, and this includes some new options for CarPlay. Apple highlighted three new features coming to CarPlay: Voice Control: This feature will allow users to navigate CarPlay and control apps with just their voice. Color Filters: This feature will make the CarPlay interface visually easier to use for...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With the New M4 OLED iPad Pro

Wednesday May 15, 2024 10:40 am PDT by
Today is the official launch day of the new iPad Pro models, and these updated tablets mark the biggest feature and design refresh that we've seen for the iPad Pro in several years. We picked up one of the new 13-inch models to check out everything new. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. When it comes to design, Apple is still offering 11-inch and 13-inch size options ...
iphone 15 pro max vs iphone 16 pro max

iPhone 16 Pro Max Looks This Much Bigger Beside iPhone 15 Pro Max

Thursday May 16, 2024 4:51 am PDT by
This year's upcoming iPhone 16 Pro Max is expected to get a boost in overall size from 6.7-inches to 6.9-inches, and a new image gives us a good idea of how the current iPhone 15 Pro Max compares to what could be Apple's largest ever iPhone. The image above, posted on X by ZONEofTECH, shows a dummy model representing the ‌iPhone 16 Pro‌ Max alongside an actual iPhone 15 Pro Max. Dummy...
Delta Hands On Feature

iPhone Emulators on the App Store: Game Boy, N64, PS1, PSP, and More

Thursday May 16, 2024 12:45 pm PDT by
In April, Apple updated its guidelines to allow retro game emulators on the App Store, and several popular emulators have already been released. The emulators released so far allow iPhone users to play games released for older consoles from Nintendo, Sony, SEGA, Atari, and others. A list of some popular emulators available on the App Store so far follows. Released Delta Delta is...