Copyright madness

Many readers will have seen various Downfall parodies. They have become an Internet cult. Hundreds of people have inserted their own subtitles over a four minute clip where Hitler goes beserk at his generals.

I especially enjoyed three of the parodies – Clark, Peters and Tizard in the final weeks of the 2008 campaign. Thankfully they are still up, but many other parodies have been removed due to a copyright complaint by Constantin films.

The clip above is a parody of the fact You Tube is removing the parodies.

AP report:

On Tuesday, the clips on YouTube, many of which had been watched by hundreds of thousands, even millions, began disappearing from the site. Constantin Films, the company that owns the rights to the film, asked for them to be removed, and YouTube complied.

Martin Moszkowicz, head of film and TV at Constantin films in Munich, said the company had been fighting copyright infringement for years. Jewish organisations have also complained about the tastefulness of the clips, he said.

“When does parody stop? It is a very complicated issue,” Moszkowicz said. “So we are taking a simple approach: Take them all down. We’ve been doing it for years now. The important thing is to protect our copyright. We are very proud of the film.”

The clips were in no way a commercial threat to the film. Not a single person would have not purchased the film, because of a four minute parody extract. On the contrary, it has exposed parts of the film to millions.

There is a real debate about whether the parodies would be allowable under the US fair use laws. However the DMCA can make You Tube liable if they do not err on the side of caution and remove them. It is a pity that this doesn’t go to a Judge. It does highlight the danger of adopting US style notice and takedown laws.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the league was “delighted.”

“We find them offensive,” said Foxman of the videos. “We feel that they trivialise not only the Holocaust but World War II. Hitler is not a cartoon character.”

On this issue I respectfully disagree. The parodies do not disrespect the Holocaust in my opinion.

For years, the meme has held an unusually steadfast position in internet culture. While most online parodies come and go overnight, new Downfall spoofs have been continually created for years.

It’s not known exactly how many have existed but estimates run in the hundreds.

I’ve seen a dozen myself. If done well, they never get boring.

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