UPDATE: Baby Yoda GIFs have now been restored, after copyright confusion led to them being taken down.
Baby Yoda GIFs from the Disney+ show The Mandalorian are being pulled from the internet, apparently due to claims of copyright infringement. Last week, the Star Wars spin-off show The Mandalorian released its first episode along with the simultaneous launch of Disney's streaming service. The show's first episode, titled “Chapter One,” ended with a character reveal which has played a huge role in the creation of viral memes and GIFs throughout the entirety of the internet, all of them containing The Mandalorian character referred to as Baby Yoda for now.
The popularity of Baby Yoda is due in large part to the child’s innocence. The young character is the subject of a seemingly malicious bounty at no fault of its own. Equatable to Baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, Baby Yoda is often used to depict innocent situations in a humorous manner, at least when speaking meme-wise. As Baby Yoda’s role becomes more and more essential to The Mandalorian’s plot (especially in “Chapter Three”) the character’s online presence seems grow along with it. This makes the newest piece of Baby Yoda-related news all the more surprising.
According to the Twitter account of Kathryn VanArendonk, a staff writer for Vulture, Giphy has removed all of the site’s Baby Yoga GIFs. Baby Yoda GIFs, as fans are well aware, are just short clips from the show, but at this point if someone was to search for “Baby Yoda” in Giphy's database, none of their applicable GIFs would appear. It has since been suggested this is reportedly occurring because Disney thinks Baby Yoda GIFs infringe upon their copyright, and instead of spending the money to refute the claim, Giphy opted to simply remove Baby Yoda from their website altogether.
As stated by VanArendonk above, many experts have argued GIFs are not subjected to the normal terms of copyright law and are protected under the fair use provision. This is one of the reasons many websites still use GIFs with no accreditation. It's somewhat ironic Disney would be so fickle with their interpretation of copyright law, having been the victim of Iron-Man lawsuits in the past.
Given the overwhelmingly positive reaction Baby Yoda (and The Mandalorian) has been receiving online courtesy of fan art, memes, and GIFs, it seems ridiculous that Disney would take issue with an abundance of support and free advertising. While it makes sense Giphy wouldn’t want to bother going head to head with the house of mouse on an issue which is primarily Vulture’s problem, it is nevertheless disconcerting to hear about a lack of Baby Yoda in the world. In this way, an argument could be made that Giphy has made a grave mistake, and fans who want to see more of Baby Yoda will have to wait until the next The Mandalorian episode airs on Friday, November 29th.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019