If you read this blog at all, (or even go on the Internet at all) you have to be familiar with the “Hitler Finds Out About…” meme. People take the excellent German film Downfall in which Hitler gets angry and frustrated, and they add their own creative subtitles to it.
The Real Downfall Clip
Clearly the creators of these sometimes hilarious videos are making use of copyright materials. But are they legally within their rights? (NOTE: As you go through this post, please note that most of the Hitler Finds Out About videos have NSFW language in the subtitles.)
In an interview with New York Magazine, Downfall director Oliver Herschbiegel said that the parodies are a compliment to his work. But the film’s distributor, Constantin Film, issued a takedown order last week for the videos for violating copyright.
According to the Ars Technica blog, Constantin Film did not obtain a takedown order under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; instead, the studio used YouTube’s Content ID filter that lets copyright holders directly blog content using digital audio and video fingerprints. In short, Constantin can automatically block many of the videos without any intervention by the courts or YouTube.
But, you say, aren’t these videos protected as parody? Yes, in fact, they most likely are. And according to the social media blog Mashable, the people who have created the parody videos can click on a check box that says the creator of the parody is disputing the takedown. That forces Constantin to go through the formal process of actually following the procedures outlined in the DMCA.
Perhaps the best explanations of the whole case are outlined in …. what else …. Hitler Finds Out About videos.
To me, the most interesting question is not how Constantin Film has fought this battle, but rather why? As I said before, the director doesn’t object and the publicity of the videos would not seem to be hurting the value of the movie. It appears to me that the biggest issue surrounding the meme is that it trivializes who Hitler was and what the Nazis did. (There is reportedly a version of it subtitled in Hebrew about the lack of parking in Tel Aviv.)
Of course, offensiveness is not a legal reason to ban parody.