MG Sielger at TechCrunch:
For my money, memes on the Internet don’t get any better than the Hitler one. You know, the one in which you take some current event (the more mundane, the better) and shove it into the scene from the German film Downfall in which Hitler is told in his bunker that he cannot win the war. The key to these (assuming you don’t speak German, of course) is to replace the actual subtitles with ones of your choosing about a different topic. Facebook/FriendFeed, Twitter, MySpace — all solid gold stuff. In fact, just this past January, while reviewing the iPad version, Erick called it “the meme that will never die.” But sadly, it looks like it may in fact die, at the hands of the studio behind it.
Earlier today, someone attempted to upload a new version surrounding the massive iPhone 4G (or iPhone HD, whatever) news. Unfortunately, as you can see on YouTube, that video has already been removed with the message, “This video contains content from Constantin Film, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.“
Constantin Film is the German film production and distribution company behind the film Downfall (Der Untergang in German). The uploader of one of the Hilter parodies notes in the comments of his video that, “Constatin Films has filed a copyright infringement claim against this video, right before it was about to reach 500,000 views! Even though it falls under Fair Use, I suspect this video will be taken down soon. Sad face.“
Sure enough, many of the other Hitler meme parodies have started disappearing as well (Hitler on Xbox Live, for example). But as of right now, there are so many out there that are subtly different enough that plenty are still up. Still, you can probably expect YouTube’s smart content system to hunt down and find all of these clips sooner rather than later. Now may be the time to appeal to Constatin Film. Downfall is a great movie, but it’s also in German which sadly means that many people outside that country will never watch it. But I’d bet these clips have sparked an interest in the film beyond what any type of traditional marketing could have done.
“We as a corporation have a bit of an ambivalent view of it,” Martin Moszkowicz, an executive at Constantin Film, told the BBC. “On the one hand, we are proud the picture has such a huge fan base and that people are using it for parody. On the other hand, we are trying to protect the artists.”
It’s that “protecting the artists” vagary that has Constantin Films attempting to remove all the clips. “It is a task that can never be completed. They are popping up whenever we are taking one down,” Moszkowicz said
Downfall’ director Oliver Hirschbiegel expressed an opposing view in an interview with New York magazine’s Vulture: “Someone sends me the links every time there’s a new one. I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director. I think it’s only fair if now it’s taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like.”
“Killing ‘Hitler Reacts’ has to be the worst decision in movie-making history since someone gave Rob Schneider a job,” says Nick Douglas, senior editor at our viral-minded partner Urlesque. “Before, there was this film called ‘Downfall’ that a few American film and history buffs knew. After the ‘Downfall’ parodies, there was a whole new audience. I’m tempted to say it’s because Old Media doesn’t get it — but I think it’s more nuanced. By now, most studios and labels sort of ‘get’ what’s going on — they just want more control.”
Douglas also wonders if the videos’ creators may be able to defend their mash-ups as protected works of parody. The Supreme Court defines parody as “the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works,” Douglas points out. “Seems like the ‘Downfall’ parodies fit that description. They make comparisons between an important historical event as interpreted by the film and much sillier modern events. But who’s going to fight a court battle over a YouTube clip?”
Samuel Axon at Mashable
Ian Chillag at NPR’s Wait, Wait Blog
“Hitler-reacts-to” videos have become an internet institution, as much as Keyboard Cat, or Jeeves, and I will be sad to see them go.
The Downfall meme is so well-established that it has literally become standard curriculum for digital moviemaking courses, as evidenced by this class’ page which counted 14 videos before the takedowns were issued (currently, only two of these videos remain playable).
For more on the genesis of the Downfall meme, see YouTOMB researcher Alex Leavitt’s study.
There are hundreds of Hitler Downfall videos, and it is unclear what will become of them. The burden of filing a counternotice dispute or a claim of fair use to restore the video falls on individual users, so it will be difficult to reverse this action. We’ll be following this story as it develops.
It’s unclear whether the takedown will eliminate the Hitler vids from YouTube, but it seems unlikely; a quick check this morning showed many to be offline, but a good number remain. In fact, that number seems certain to be incremented by one before too long: The video in which Hitler rants against the bullying legal tactics of Constantin Films. The clock starts now.
Tim Cavanaugh at Reason
Scott Johnson at Powerline