Apple rejection. Goodbye GIF Finder

I launched GIF Finder in 2012 due to the frustration of not being able to find GIFs to reply with quickly on iOS. Since it's launch it's had almost 90,000 downloads. It absolutely blows my mind that so many people are using something I whipped together as a side project one summer at university.

I'll admit that I haven't always been so attentitve to it's issues, but I've worked on it when I can and generally released an update for each major OS version. Unfortunately, today GIF Finder will be available no more.

After recieving a number of complaints for users, I realised I'd made a stupid mistake with the latest update which means that the app crashes on iPad when trying to share a GIF, which is the main function of the app. Whoops!

I quickly whipped together an update and got it submitted, promising the users it would be fixed in around a weeks time. This update was literally a 2 line fix in the code, so I thought I had nothing to worry about.

Fast forward a week and Apple has binary rejected the update on copyright grounds as you are able to find Disney images (amongst other names) using the app. I use Tumblr's API and Imgur's API to retrieve the the GIFs, the same GIFs that are available in the Tumblr app and through the Safari browser.

The reason given for rejection:

Your app includes content or features that resemble various well-known, third-party marks, including Disney characters.

We’ve attached screenshot(s) for your reference.

Pursuant to your agreement with Apple, you represent and warrant that your application does not infringe the rights of another party, and that you are responsible for any liability to Apple because of a claim that your application infringes another party's rights. Moreover, we may reject or remove your application for any reason, at our sole discretion.

Accordingly, please provide documentary evidence of rights to use this content. Once Legal has reviewed your documentation and confirms its validity, we will proceed with the review of your app.If your iTunes Connect Application State is Rejected, a new binary will be required. Make the desired metadata changes when you upload the new binary.

If your iTunes Connect Application State is Metadata Rejected, we do NOT require a new binary.

NOTE: Please be sure to make any metadata changes to all App Localizations by selecting each specific localization and making appropriate changes.

I have tried explaining to Apple twice that I do not own the images, that they are not bundled with the app and that I can't see how the it's any different to the Tumblr app itself. Unfortunately all Apple are able to do is send me a canned response ignoring my questions and asking that I submit "documentary evidence of rights to use this content".

I've offered to add disclaimers, copyright notices, links to the Tumblr and Imgur terms of service (Which covers the issue of ownership of content) but all has fallen on deaf ears.

I sent a list of questions and got this response:

Thank you for your response and prompt attention to the trademark issue.

However, we are not able to accept third-party related applications, for example with Disney or BBC content, without authorization from the rights holder. It would be appropriate to remove those categories and images.

We look forward to reviewing your revised app.

To which I responded asking if they could answer my questions and verify whether any of my suggestions would resolve the issue. I was met with yet another useful response:

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.

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.

If anyone at Tumblr, Imgur or Giphy reads this, I'd be interested in hearing how they get around this issue with their Apps, or if they simply haven't been pulled up on it yet. I can only assume I am being naive and missing something obvious but Apple's reluctance to offer advice has left me stumpted.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and GIF Finder since 2012, it's been fun. Hopefully I'll have something new to talk about in the store soon. Happy GIF-ing.

Update:

I've submitted an appeal to Apple against the decision. I'm informed that I should have a reply within 24 hours.

Update 2:

Apple has re-reviewed the app after my appeal. They are scheduling a call to discuss the rejection.

@MattCheetham