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.
Online piracy has plagued the music and movie industry for years, with copyright infringement causing millions of dollars in loss each year. So when the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (the copyright czar) asked the entertainment industry to submit proposals to the government for ways to protect intellectual property, the industry came out all guns blazing.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) came out with a set of proposals (pdf) that would combat piracy by invading the privacy of consumers and putting the federal government to work for the entertainment industry.
For example, the trade groups suggest that spyware could be installed on home computers across the land. This special software would identify and block content that violates fair use, block certain keywords that might lead to sites with illegally obtained content, and monitor social networks for the promotion of infringing Web sites.
The industry also wants border authorities to educate everyone entering the United States about piracy issues, suggesting that customs forms should be amended to require the disclosure of pirate or counterfeit items being brought into the United States. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports:
Does that iPod in your hand luggage contain copies of songs extracted from friends’ CDs? Is your computer storing movies ripped from DVD (handy for conserving battery life on long trips)? Was that book you bought overseas “licensed” for use in the United States? These are the kinds of questions the industry would like you to answer on your customs form when you cross borders or return home from abroad.