When settling legal disputes about copyrighted GIFs (or apngs webps etc) are they recognised by the court as videos or images (Or does it make no difference)?

It's worth mentioning that they are (in terms of computer science) recognised as images, but you can easily get a silent film and convert it into a really long GIF.

Since I'm not sure if this can vary with location, I'll leave it open (if it can, assume international, US and/or UK law)

2 Answers 2


They are both “documents” under most rules of evidence

Basically, there are only two sorts of evidence:

  1. Testimony. What a witness says to the court. Although, in practice a lot of testimony is said out of court and given in writing but it’s still testimony.
  2. Documentary. Everything else.

They could be admitted into evidence if they are otherwise admissible as evidence.

Typically, the main issues would be authentication, foundation and relevance, i.e. that these videos are accurate evidence of something relevant to the lawsuit.

Conceivably, depending upon the content and the purpose for which they are admitted, other rules of evidence could be implicated such as hearsay, character evidence limitations, and rules regarding when deposition testimony is admissible.

It is also conceivable that they could be admissible as "demonstrative evidence" such as an animation used by an accident reconstruction expert to explain how an accident probably happened.

The medium itself isn't really material. Courts routinely allow AV evidence to be admitted, although it is sometimes necessary to make arrangements for the logistical details involved in presenting it at trial with the court clerk or in a pre-trial conference.

Sometimes the court itself can only handle certain file formats, and if it is unable to use your file format, you may need to bring your own equipment to display those files to the trier of fact.

  • How do they get reflected in the transcript/record of the case? Aug 25, 2020 at 1:13
  • @GeorgeWhite This is an evolving issue. In one case, a transcript was used. I'm aware of one U.S. Supreme Court case where the Justices viewed the video. Sometimes still slides are used. There isn't a consistent practice at this point.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 25, 2020 at 3:45
  • If a video is viewed it must become a part of the record of the case, yes? Aug 25, 2020 at 5:48
  • In theory yes. In practice it can be a wee wit tricky logistically to work out.
    – ohwilleke
    Aug 25, 2020 at 19:26
  • Aren't videos and imagery copyrighted under different labels?
    – yolo
    Aug 25, 2020 at 23:04

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