Baby Yoda Gifs reinstated after Star Wars takedown confusion

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Fans have complained about Baby Yoda GIFs being pulledImage source, Disney

Viral animated images of a new Star Wars character, nicknamed Baby Yoda, are back online after a brief ban.

Gifs featuring the co-star of the Mandalorian TV series had been widely shared online, with many viewers declaring the small alien as being "the best thing" about the new Disney+ show.

But the animations disappeared late last week after Giphy - the platform used to make them - blocked the posts.

It said it had done so because of "confusion" about their legal status.

Disney had faced criticism after news site The Vulture had reported that its own Baby Yoda posts had been removed for "copyright reasons", adding that "Disney decided that Gifs of this beautiful being should be removed from the internet!"

Many fans subsequently complained on social media about the US media giant's supposed intervention.

But Giphy has since clarified that Disney was not to blame.

"Last week, there was some confusion around certain content uploaded to Giphy and we temporarily removed these Gifs while we reviewed the situation," said the image-hosting website in a statement.

"We apologise to both Disney and Vulture for any inconvenience, and we are happy to report that the Gifs are once again live on Giphy."

The BBC has asked Disney for comment.

Variety has reported that the California-based firm intends to launch a wide range of tie-in merchandise for the character ahead of Christmas, so will likely benefit from its viral status. Disney has also shared its own imagery of the character online.

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There is no US legal precedent for Gifs being forced off the net on copyright grounds.

Experts suggest they would probably fall under "fair use" due to their transformative purpose - an exception made under intellectual property laws to allow the re-use of others' material for commentary or parody.

The Disney+ streaming service was launched in the US earlier this month, but will not come to the UK and many other markets until 2020.