The dress that broke the Internet has disappeared.
In February, the debate started when Caitlin McNeil posted a photo of a dress on her Tumblr (swiked.tumblr.com) and asked her followers to help her figure out whether it was blue and black or white and gold.
Her post was embedded in a story on BuzzFeed, and a viral sensation was born.
Now, her original Tumblr post leads to an error page and, for a period of time, broken embeds on the original BuzzFeed post.
In an interview with Business Insider in February, Caitlin McNeil, the woman who posted the photo to Tumblr, says she originally encountered the photo of the infamous dress on a friend’s Facebook page.
McNeil shared that photo — which she saw being debated on Facebook — to her Tumblr.
Recently, some users on Twitter noticed that the Tumblr post had been removed.
Since the image was removed from Tumblr, it led to error messages on the original BuzzFeed story. They have since replaced their embeds — which were pulling directly from the Tumblr post — with a photo of the dress, credited to swiked.tumblr.com. According to a BuzzFeed spokesperson, they received a license for the photo when the Tumblr post was taken down.
According to Cecilia Bleasdale, the original copyright owner of the photo of the dress, the Tumblr post was taken down because of a copyright issue.
A Tumblr spokesperson confirmed that Tumblr received a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice about the dress post on November 2, which is when the original post was taken down.
CNN has reached out to Caitlin McNeil, who was not immediately available for comment.
Is the missing dress the new dress?
The dress photo was a viral sensation. The Internet exploded the night the story was published.
On Twitter, scientists and celebrities alike debated the color scheme. Serious news articles dwelt on what the phenomenon said about visual perception. The question, “Blue and black or gold and white?” became almost universally understood.
The dress went on to become the fifth-most viral meme of 2015 on Tumblr. The original post on BuzzFeed has more than 38 million views. It broke all kinds of BuzzFeed traffic records.
Now it’s part of the Internet lexicon. Viral sensations are often and immediately compared to the dress meme: Is this name on a Starbucks cup the new dress? Is this Shoe debate the new dress? Is this girl’s hair color the new dress?
But now it’s gone – the original image, at least. Type ‘The dress’ into Google Images and thousands of images pop up.
Not the first time
The dress is not the first meme that got entangled in copyright issues. According to Tumblr, between January and June 2015, they have removed more than 126,000 pieces of content because of copyright issues.
Know Your Meme — a website dedicated to documenting and categorizing memes — has a long post of memes that have been taken down because of cease-and-desist and copyright issues. From Scumbag Stacy to Hater’s Gonna Hate, moments that have taken over the web have been at the center of copyright controversies.
But photos and memes that become ingrained in the online culture continue to exist long after the original is taken down, according to Amanda Brennan, a community and content associate at Tumblr.
As is certainly the case with The Dress, “oftentimes you don’t really need the original piece of content for it to live on. With the dress, it was so viral for so long, people know what it looks like,” she said.
Memes, she said, are “ideas that spread from person to person. The idea of the dress exists in people’s minds. Now it can exist in different ways.”