'2001: A Space Odyssey' as 569 GIFs tests fair use limits

It's just as hard to watch that many GIFs as it likely was to make them.


If there was a grand prize for "Most Work Done to Prove a Point" (and "Fanciest Name Ever") Jean-Baptiste Henri Franck Cyrille Marie Le Divelec would be a contender. For 2001: A Gif Odyssey, the ad agency creator painstakingly chopped Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey into 569 tiny GIFs to find the breaking point of the so-called fair use doctrine. Fair use, as a reminder, is a legal principal that allows people to use copyrighted material for commentary, criticism, news reporting, scholarship or research. At the same time, it also serves as an "affirmative defense" to protect artists.

A court recently ruled that creators must confirm fair use before sending takedown notices, but GIFs are normally too short to bother anyone. However, rights holders like the NFL have recently tried to shut down GIFs posted on Twitter by Deadspin and others. Le Divelec made it technically possible view 2001, albeit in an extremely inefficient way. Individually, each GIF would arguably fit into fair use as criticism, but what about all 569 as a whole? In the trailer below, Le Divelec asks, "Will this page get shut down? Will the fair use doctrine prevail? Will it break the internet? Only time will tell."

For now, the GIFs are mute (with subtitles) and hosted on Giphy, but Le Divelec hopes to create his own site and add the score, which is free of any copyright. He told The Creators Project that his legitimate usage defense rests on artistic freedom. "I am trying to see where we can go in GIF-making while keeping GIF limitations. The fact that GIFs are soundless or contain only 256 colors gives me a little 'buffer' against some pure copyright infringement arguments."