Stay calm, Star Wars fans. Baby Yoda gifs are back online. The Mandalorian lovers sensed a great disturbance in the Force recently when gifs of the adorable internet sensation from the show began to disappear from popular gif platform GIPHY. The reason for the disappearance hadn't been made clear, with speculation placing the blame on Disney, likely over some sort of copyright dispute. Yet, that may not be the case as the situation has worked itself out. At least for now.
This all started after the publication Vulture released an article centered entirely around Baby Yoda gifs. Not long after, the gifs were removed and it was reported that this had something to do with Disney stepping in, with news of The Mandalorian movie looming as the show has become quite popular. Now, GIPHY has put the gifs back online and has responded to the situation. Interestingly, they apologize to both Vulture and Disney in their statement, which raises questions about what happened in the first place. A GIPHY spokesperson had this to say about it.
"Last week, there was some confusion around certain content uploaded to GIPHY and we temporarily removed these GIFs while we reviewed the situation. We apologize to both Disney and Vulture for any inconvenience, and we are happy to report that the GIFs are once again live on GIPHY."
So what exactly happened? Did GIPHY decide to remove these gifs on their own without the threat of legal action from Disney? Was it just precautionary? What prompted them to remove the gifs in the first place? For now, no further clarification was offered and since any alleged legal action taken by Disney was never corroborated, so far as we can tell, this is a relatively mysterious situation. But one that does open up a larger discussion about how copyright can/should work in the modern era.
Baby Yoda gifs are, indeed, using imagery from The Mandalorian, a show that is intellectual property ultimately owned by Disney. So yes, Disney could step in and request they be taken down. But can gifs/memes truly be regulated in modern online culture? And should they be? Many argued that Disney and Lucasfilm were essentially getting a boatload of free advertising for the new Disney+ series thanks to the widespread discussion centered on Baby Yoda, a character that doesn't even have an official name yet. Much of that discussion utilized gifs and memes.
Star Wars has, historically, embraced fan art, fan recreations and fan's creative endeavors set within the franchise, so long as it isn't for profit. Disney being the massive corporation that it is, things have changed a tiny bit since they purchased Lucasfilm in 2012. A platform like GIPHY does stand to profit from the use of Star Wars gifs, which puts it squarely in the grey area. Point being, Baby Yoda is safe for now at least, but this is something that can, and likely will, come up again in the future. We'll be treated to more Baby Yoda goodness when The Mandalorian returns with a new episode on Friday, November 29 on Disney+. This news comes to us via Gizmodo.