The Downfall of Hitler Parodies: Videos Removed From YouTube in Copyright Action

By Smriti Rao | April 22, 2010 11:50 am

This week, YouTube began trying to obliterate one of the most popular internet memes of all time, the Downfall parodies featuring an enraged Adolf Hitler, after a copyright claim by the German production house that owns the movie’s rights.

The parody videos all use a clip from the 2004 German film Downfall about Hitler’s final days. In the clip, Hitler–played by actor Bruno Ganz–lashes out at his staff when he is told that he cannot win the war. As with any foreign film, the movie came with subtitles.

Over the years, fun-seekers have replaced the original English subtitles with absurd substitutes. So instead of ranting about the war, the subtitles express Hitler’s rage over Kanye West’s famous outburst, his toilet being clogged, or the collapse of the real estate market. The satirical videos have been hugely popular over the years, with some clips racking up hundreds of thousands of views. But the clips apparently didn’t just generate a lot of laughs, they also irritated the company that owns the rights to the film, prompting the company to ask YouTube to take them off the site.

The company, Constantin Films, also noted that they had received complaints from Jewish groups about the distasteful nature of the spoofs. Indeed, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the Associated Press that the  league was “delighted” at this piece of news.

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

Some have argued that since the videos are parodies, they are protected under “fair use,” the legal doctrine that holds that the use of copyright-protected works for purposes such as parody and education may be considered “fair,” writes the Associated Press. However, YouTube’s content policy also specifies that if a copyright holder asks, they will remove the material from the site.

The site is also blocking people from uploading new Downfall parodies. TechCrunch reports that when someone tried to upload a new Hitler spoof on the missing iPhone 4G, they got the following message:

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

Meanwhile, even as YouTube sweeps its site for the parodies, there are so many of them out there, that you can still watch a few of them easily.

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