HOWTO sneak Hitler onto YouTube

Looking to game Google's copyright enforcement bot? That's the system that was used to hunt down rogue Hitler videos that remixed the bunker scene from Downfall, and it's pretty thick:
Mark Smitelli has poked around at the system, uploading copies of the copyrighted song "I Know What Boys Like," sonically altered in various ways: compressing or expanding the time, lowering or raising the pitch, adding noise, etc. Mark runs the complete results, but to roughly summarize: Altering parameters more than 5% often seems to fool the Identifier, and using less than 30 seconds also seems to let the clip slip through the rule-bound robot's shiny little nets. Playing clips in reverse confused the Identifier, but stripping out everything except the vocals did not.

Using a clip for as satire or political commentary undoubtedly wouldn't keep it from the Identifier's snares, although such use is likely protected and non-infringing. The Identifier, unsurprisingly, seems to be a poor reader of human intention. [Thanks to David Abrams for the tip.]

YouTube's automated copyright filter



  1. If I remember correctly, parody is fair use, whereas satire is not (usually). If you are using the clip to comment on the clip itself, then it is (usually) protected. If you are using the clip to comment on other matters, it is not.

  2. The worst thing about this, as always, is that the company that holds the copyright always trumps the stance of the work’s actual creator.

    There were artists on Warner Music who had no problem with their music being posted on YouTube by fans, and in fact encouraged it. Perhaps the worst example I recall was a non-record-label-sponsored channel that had the personal permission of Björk, which ended up having its videos yanked by a record label that didn’t even hold the rights to the music in Björk’s native Iceland.

    The reason I mention this? Naturally, the director of Downfall found these gag subtitles hilarious.

  3. Well thanks a lot. We’ve known that short, non-continuous, clips were flying under the radar, but now you’ve spelled it out in letters so large that an *AA lawyer can read it…

  4. Now, to complete the circle, we need a Downfall parody that has Hitler losing it because YouTube keeps deleting HIS parodies…:

    …nervous looks from the Ãœber-Kommandants: “Mein Fuhrer, YouTube’s new…”(breaks off)..”YouTube’s new bots are finding and deleting any parody videos, including all of yours..”

    That’s OK, I can see it in my mind now…

  5. This is terrible. Can’t some someone set up a website in Iceland or Russian JUST for Hitler videos? This is clearly fair use.

  6. Well, I have definitely enjoyed some of the youtube Hitler clips mentioned, and yes they got a bit old or perhaps sloppy.
    I went to the linked article that quote New York Magazine, and this insanity lept out at me. Sure jhope this is fair use:
    ” He seems to understand that, by satirizing the Fuhrer with Hilary Clinton’s loss at the primaries (or other such nonsense), Hitler’s legacy can be dismantled and ultimately rendered impotent. ”

    Ok, uhh..really? So the director of Downfall was such a good sport and loved the Hitler spoofy clips on youtube so much (aparently then wouldn’t have minded them staying), that the conclusion is he realized Hitler’s legacy can be rendered impotent by them !?
    Look, that was so stupid to print… man that needs to be spoofed and mocked now.
    Gee, thanks youtube, you left the Hillary Hitler spoof clip and others up just long enough for Hitler’s legacy has been rendered impotent…
    Someone hit me with a baseball bat so I explode and disappear, rendering my legacy impotent, for sure.

    1. Yes, it didn’t surprise me that Hirschbiegel likes the meme, but I think he wouldn’t end up at that air head conclusion that this is somehow a good approach to deal with history, as the article’s author seems to over-interpret.

    1. This video contains content from Constantin Film, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.

      I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news…

  7. I would be very surprised if someone at Google hasn’t already seen this and started subtly modifying the algorithms used in their identifier. Though it does depend on how they’re processing the data, checking for most of these things (particularly the speedup) should require a fairly trivial modification.

  8. David Weinberger (ie the source of the quote in the OP) says —

    Using a clip for as (sic) satire or political commentary […] is likely protected and non-infringing.

    This is not my understanding, and I know of no evidence in support of this. However, I would be delighted to learn that I’m wrong.

    David, I see that you’re a Senior Researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, so can you provide some examples of satire being used successfully in a fair use defense against alleged infringement?

  9. This could be a good thing. It may get a lot of people that had no interest in copyright issues to get involved. They will try to show their friends the Hitler Planning his Burning Man camp video and it is NOT THERE.

    In the mean time I am that guy wanting to show that video to my friends.

  10. I’ve gotten around the copyright for audio, and it’s just as simple as what Mark Smitelli has come up with, but I don’t think I should say what it is because I don’t want it to be fixed.

  11. If the ‘identifier’ is looking at audio, then an experiment might try adding some ultra-low freq amplitude bursts to it every so often. They’d be inaudible, and look quite different from the waveforms they’re being compared to.

    Another option: gating the audio *completely off* during quiet parts.

    For imagery, adding small value changes (as in steganography, but randomly) to the bit-stream would mask identity.

    HTH from the bit-shop. Because information wants to be incognito.

  12. I think that, in the end, the Downfall parodies will remain a part (and a significant part) of YouTube’s culture. If people want them up, they will find a way. It is only a matter of time before a DMCA counter notice challange makes it clear that we have the right to do this sort of remixing.

    YouTube is tarnishing its brand image by not correcting its Content ID system.

    I offer an analysis of the political and cultural significance of the Downfall parodies in my book, Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People (University of Toronto Press, 2010).

    Dr. Strangelove
    University of Ottawa

  13. “Fair Use” is considered under 30 seconds; this is why the youtube filter ignores them.
    This is also why music previews (for example on iTunes) are only 30 seconds – one second more and they’d have to pay royalties to the companies whose music they’re selling.

  14. Or you could, you know, use competing services, like Viddler, Dailymotion, or my favorite, Vimeo. The last two of which are enabling HTML5 to get rid of the Flash middleman. I recall Vimeo had enabled HD video long before Youtube did.

    (I have no idea of their copyright enforcement policies. I’m hoping that, being smaller targets, they’re not yet as burdened as Youtube).

  15. Just a note:

    I particularly noticed that the FIRST Hitler video’s to get taken down were those that parodied the Canadian PM Harper.. In fact the Canadians started the meme with their 2008 elections, if i am not mistaken.

    Whats that? Favoritism, political gifts?

    “Google Canada assumed all costs of the prime-ministerial appearance on YouTube, which raised some concerns about conflict of interest, since Google is also officially registered to lobby Harper and his government on telecommunications issues. But Google spokespersons said that the provision of services – for which costs were undisclosed – did not amount to any kind of political gift.”

    Well, that’s nice but…how do some Canadian’s feel about Google’s actions? Is it a political gift to pay for Harpers you tube appearance and set up his nifty channel while Google is officially listed as lobbying the Canadian federal government? Many would say yes and Google should stay out of Canadian politics if they don’t know their policy and laws!

    Harper does not need to “sneak around” to voice his political views on you tube now does he? No, those are paid for by Google! If Google continues down this path of outright interference in world geo-politics then they better hire new laywers. Canadians, contrary to some ridiculous, promoted myths and stereotypes are a highly educated bunch and Google crossed the line. Canadians have noticed, don’t think they have not..

    Yes, look! Seems Canada is not the only country fed up with Google for various reasons, many of our strong allies are now taking aim at Google:

    ps- all of the “Hitler Harper” videos i noticed are saved & seeded at torrent sites.The voice of the Canadian people cannot be silenced it seems..well whaddaya know ;)

  16. More understanding is that this is one in a long long line of defeats in the new atmosphere of frivolous threats to bring legal action on the grounds of intellectual property. It doesn’t matter if the suit wouldn’t hold up in court, what matters is that the suing company can afford to pay to lose while the defendant can not afford to pay to win.

    Creating more grounds for introducing phoney lawsuit threats is going to matters worse. I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t purposeful ambiguity in the new acts that would make more cases have to go to court to be disproven.

  17. I loved the so much I bought the DVD. But, you know what? Its like those Germans have a different word for everything.

  18. “Slip through the rule-bound robot’s shiny little nets” is the nicest phrase I’ve heard in quite some time!
    It conjures up quite an endearing mental image…

    1. Although I came up with the line independently, it looks like Tim Cavanaugh beat me to it. So the internet goes to him.

      That’s OK. I don’t even want the internet anymore, now that you can’t do anything fun with it.

  19. Now, to complete the circle, we need a Downfall parody that has Hitler losing it because YouTube keeps deleting HIS parodies…

    I think this went live on Vimeo about 2 hours after you posted that:

  20. Hi, just wanted to correct an error – you mention that “Mark Smitelli” is the one that’s been trying to figure out YouTube’s audio filter, and that’s incorrect. His name is Scott Smitelli. Thanks!

Comments are closed.