Hitler "Downfall" video meme is DMCA'd

Copyright claims against various Hitler "Downfall" parody videos have resulted in the removal of these videos from YouTube. The DMCA claimant is Constantin Films, the German production company which owns rights to the 2004 film Der Untergang ("Downfall"), from which the source video is excerpted. Boy, is Hitler ever gonna be pissed.

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  1. I remember the director of that film saying he enjoyed the parody videos. Too bad he has no control over this decision.

  2. People will say the Downfall parodies are an example of “good” copying.

    I agree.

    But do you think it might have reached a point where having that scene used as parody so many times might actually devalue the original material, thereby entitling the copyright holders to complain?

    1. “But do you think it might have reached a point where having that scene used as parody so many times might actually devalue the original material, thereby entitling the copyright holders to complain?”

      No. If the copyright holders have an issue with seeing their product played TOO MANY times….well, I think they have far greater problems than we suspect.

      1. I think anyone who is watching the film for the first time – someone who has seen the parodies but is not watching the film *because* of the parodies – is going to view that whole sequence in a really different way than the creators intended. In that sense I think the original work has been devalued.

        1. @standard So then did “Spaceballs” or “Hardware Wars” devalue “Star Wars?” Did “Young Frankenstein” devalue “Frankenstein?” Did “Shaun of the Dead” devalue “Night of the Living Dead?”

          1. I think there is an argument (unfortunately) against these parodies. They are nothing like the movies that you mention, which are rewritten, recast and refilmed.

            These parodies will probably ruin the emotional impact of watching the final scene of a movie — the scene that packs all the emotional punch of the movie.

            Imagine the filmmakers wanted you to be seething with anger at Hitler’s arrogance, and instead you’re laughing because the scene reminds you of that funny YouTube video. That would suck, for both of you — you also get robbed of the intended experience.

            Like I said though, it sucks, because the parodies are really funny. Hopefully when the movie has had its “run” the complaint will be withdrawn, the parodies will be released and we can all live in peace.

    2. Does it really matter how much it was done? If doing it once is legal doing it a billion times is legal. It doesn’t matter if you drive through a green light once a week or once a second it’s illegal to write someone a ticket for it.

      It doesn’t matter if people parodied it once or parodied 13 times per every many woman and child on earth, it’s legal to do so, and even in such pro-corporate, anti end-user places as the US, it’s illegal to file a claim against it knowing that it’s a protected parody.

      One time or infinite times, it’s still not allowed to effectively resort to perjury, and make a willfully false claim of infringement, for the sake of censorship.

      There should be no sympathy for people who wish to use the law as a weapon specifically by disobeying it on purpose.

      1. AirPillo, that takes as assumed that the “Downfall” redubs are protected as parodies under the doctrine of fair use. That’s not necessarily true — just calling something a parody doesn’t make it one for legal purposes. See the 1997 Ninth Circuit decision in Dr Seuss v Penguin Books for an example of a parody that was found to be not fair use.

        1. Thank you. I was just about to ask if parody protected against using the actual material.

          Having glanced at the case you cite, I’m surprised that it failed given that it was illustrated and written by somebody else.

          But that brings up another question I have always had, which is: if you use product A to parody product B, then it’s not really a parody of A… so can the owners sue you?

          I have a feeling that this is where the case is going.

  3. the only reason i bought that movie on DVD was because of the parodys. it turned out to be highly entertaining all the same.

    1. Downfall was a *good* movie, but I’m not sure it was “entertaining”. There is a difference.

  4. The DMCA loop begins…

    Hitler reacts to news that “Hitler reacts” videos have been pulled from YouTube

    Hitler reacts to news that “Hitler reacts to news that “Hitler reacts” videos have been pulled from YouTube” video has been pulled from YouTube.

    Hitler reacts to news that “Hitler reacts to news that “Hitler reacts to news that “Hitler reacts” videos have been pulled from YouTube” video has been pulled from YouTube” has been pulled from YouTube.

  5. Clearly it’s time for someone to recreate the clip shot-for-shot, using six-year-olds. Speaking German.

  6. Wonder how many copies of the movie have been sold or Netflixed simply because of the top-of-mind awareness the meme brought?
    Hm. 12 dollah at Amazon? At that price it qualifies as impulse buy. Silly, stupid rightsholder, you are cutting off your newly found cash flow!

    1. Wonder how many copies of the movie have been sold or Netflixed simply because of the top-of-mind awareness the meme brought?
      Hm. 12 dollah at Amazon? At that price it qualifies as impulse buy. Silly, stupid rightsholder, you are cutting off your newly found cash flow!

      Instead of assuming the parodies must have led to increased revenue for the rightsholder, and that therefore the rightsholder is stupid, isn’t it simpler to assume a rational rightsholder, and that therefore increased revenue must be zilch?

  7. Honestly, this silly “shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted and then shooting every horse that reminds you of your horse that you actually never lost” has made me a lot less inclined to rent “Der Untergang’. I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t want to reap the financial benefit of so powerful a meme?

  8. Whether or not it falls under fair use or if bounds were being overstepped here or not aside, I was getting rather sick of that meme to begin with.

  9. I fully support the use of Copyright to clean up old memes, now if only Youtube could autobounce RickRolls

  10. I guess that I’ll take it out of my Netflix queue, since the producers don’t want anyone watching it.

  11. Boy, is Hitler ever gonna be pissed.

    He seems pretty beside himself about the whole thing…

  12. Actually, I thought of obtaining a copy of the movie after seeing one of those subtitle spoofs, since the intensity of the acting impressed me and it made me wonder what else happened during Hitler’s last days. I guess it’s different because I speak German and I could ignore the subtitle and watch the actual movie.

    AFAIK, something can only be protected under claims of parody if it’s parodyzing the original material, not if it’s making fun of iPad availability or whatever.

    Maybe it’s time someone’s created a site as an SRT repository of these subtitles, SRT is a subtitle file: a small text file that contains timing info about when to display a particular text, understandable by all good media players. Surely they can’t DMCA that?

  13. Surely this is nothing to worry about. We can still watch them… here, and here, and here.
    And once Steiner.de gets online…

  14. I sent them this:

    Hello.

    I have rented and purchased many of your films over the years and have enjoyed them greatly.

    However, I do not approve of your censorial disregard for the rules of fair use, legitimate satire, and parody.

    http://laughingsquid.com/hitler-downfall-remixes-removed-from-youtube/

    I will not be purchasing or using any of your products until the videos mentioned in that blog post are reinstated on YouTube.

    Thanks for your time.

    The email address is found on this page:
    http://www.constantin-film.de/2/company/constantin-film-ag/about-us/about-us.html

    To the point. Took me two minutes. Fuck them sideways if they can’t take a joke. And they do make some excellent films, BTW. Downfall being one of many.

  15. @Trotsky

    Admirable, but “excellent films” are few and far between…too few and far between to deliberately avoid those whose distributors (not the director or actors or writer, I’m sure) are over-cautious about internet video.

  16. >> Admirable, but “excellent films” are few and far between

    My Netflix queue says different.

  17. @HerkyDerky

    Yes – that’s why I thought Antinous’ comment “the producers don’t want anyone watching it” was rather misguided.

  18. @HerkyDerky: The problem you mention is the problem of free speech. Sometimes people say things that are wrong/evil/stupid or that in this case possibly devalue your experience of a great film. There is no solution to this problem except MORE FREE SPEECH.

    1. I don’t disagree that more free speech is generally better — how does it apply here?

      I’m not being argumentative; I just don’t see it.

  19. I rented “Downfall” after watching many of the parody videos, several clever, some crappy. While I can see the argument re: devaluation, I think that for those who actually watch the whole film, the last thing on their minds at the closing credits will be the parodies.

    Even for those who find themselves a bit jarred when they get to the most-frequently parodied scene, there is a lot of movie after that point to become re-immersed in grim history.

    Great movie – though I wouldn’t call it “entertaining.”

  20. Couple of points: Apparently this isn’t a DMCA takedown. According to the updated Open Video post, it’s the result of content blocking based on Youtube’s ‘content ID’ system.

    Second, the parody/fair use argument would be much stronger if these vids were actually parodies, but as far as I can figure — and IANAL — they’re in fact satires. And satire is not protected by fair use. Avram’s post (#13) isn’t quite correct because ‘The Cat NOT in the Hat’ is not in fact ‘an example of a parody that was found not to be fair use’; TCNITH is a satire, and that’s why it lost the case.

    Also, Constantin Films can go fuck themselves.

  21. If the morons at Constantin Films didn’t want a bunch of parody videos made then they shouldn’t have made a movie about the greatest asshat in history. Hitler is fair game, and their portrayal of him just asks for remixing.

    There is no way it is possible to argue that these parodies hurt the film’s producers… Exposure is exposure. Sampling is acceptable in the music industry as long as those samples are cleared so the original creator gets credit (and people get paid). Everyone who has seen this meme knows where this clip comes from. No one would purposefully avoid the film because they have seen the memes – what would the rationale be?

    I, like many others it seems, was keen to check out the original in context. I haven’t yet had a chance, but I am most def not going to seek it out now.

    Intended result: Fail.

  22. What morons. I watched the original film after seeing the first parody. I would have never bothered with it if not for the parody.

  23. Just for the record, Adolf’s birthday was just yesterday, too. I guess Youtube wanted to do something nice for him.

  24. >>Hitler is fair game, and their portrayal of him just asks for remixing.

    I think “he/she’s just asking for it” is a dangerous road to go down.

    Hey — my first trolling! How did I do?

  25. I love the Hitler videos, and have laughed at my share of them, but apparently we have chosen not to learn from our own geek history. The Hitler videos are NOT parodies.

    In 2003 Penny Arcade ran into the exact same issue with their “American McGee’s Strawberry Shortcake” strip:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny_Arcade_(webcomic)#American_Greetings

    Effectively the strip was using Strawberry Shortcake to parody a third party – American McGee’s tendency to create dark versions of kid heroines – not Strawberry Shortcake herself.

    In the Hitler videos, the clip is used to parody third parties – not the Hitler video itself. If the clip was used to parody its own movie (and I’m sure at least one of the videos itself was), then that would be acceptable use and would constitute parody. However, the third party parody is apparently not protected.

    It sucks that our remixing culture is not protected, but that’s the way things are. Unfortunately the creators of the videos (with the possible exception of any parodying the movie itself) don’t have a legal leg to stand on.

  26. magdelane, that doesn’t answer the question, unless you mean that you only said it because you were just following a bandwagon.

  27. Constantin has actually started issuing DMCA Takedown notices to all contested parodies, as of July 28, 2010.

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