In a challenge of just how far the fair usage doctrine can be pushed, Jean-Baptiste Henri Franck Cyrille Marie Le Divelec has released his project 2001: A Gif Odyssey. The work is a comprehensive construction of the Stanley Kubrick sci-fi classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, using only GIF images, 569 of them to be exact. Le Divelec accurately sliced the film into small enough chunks that they could be saved as individual animated gif images and repeated this for the entire 161-minute runtime of the film, which is a lot of effort just to test a point.
Fair usage is a principle that allows people to use small amounts of copyrighted materials for the purpose of commentary, criticism, parody, news reporting, scholarship or research. This protects artists who make work based around or criticizing copyrighted works, but also limits the amount of the original work that they can make use of, to also protect the original copyright holders.
Gif images have had a varied history with fair usage, as while for the majority of the time, the small amounts of content that can be contained within one of the images is too small for most copyright holders to care, recently, NFL and others have tried to stop users from posting gifs to Twitter and other platforms. This is where Gif Odyssey comes in, with each gif individually being argued as fair usage as criticism, but, as a whole, does this change matters? “Will this page get shut down? Will the fair use doctrine prevail? Will it break the internet? Only time will tell.” says Le Divelec in the release trailer for the project.
Currently, the project is hosted on Giphy and devoid of any audio, with the gif images containing subtitles in its place, but Le Divelec aims to create his own website to host it in future and include the soundtrack, which is free of copyright. If it doesn’t get taken down first at least.