It's enough to make anyone froth at the mouth: Film parodies making use of a ranting Hitler, with added subtitles explaining what current event he was ranting about -- which have grown increasingly popular on YouTube -- are gradually disappearing after a request from the company that owns the film.
Though the spoofs -- which run the gamut from political issues to the loss of the next-generation iPhone -- are parodies and protected by fair use, the technology that YouTube is reportedly using to detect them can't tell the difference, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"Because the Content I.D. filter permits a copyright owner to disable any video that contains its copyrighted content -- whether or not that video contains other elements that make the use a noninfringing fair use -- a content owner can take down a broad swath of fair uses with the flick of a switch," writes senior staff attorney Corynne McSherry in the EFF's blog.
"This is hardly the first time that Content I.D., has led to overbroad takedowns of legal content," McSherry adds. "Copyright owners have used the system to take down (or silence) everything from home videos of a teenager singing Winter Wonderland and a toddler lip-syncing to Foreigner’s Juke Box Hero to (and we’re not making this up) a lecture by Prof. Larry Lessig on the cultural importance of remix creativity."
The original source material is the 2004 German-made, Academy Award-nominated film The Downfall: Hitler and the End of the Third Reich (aka Der Untergang). According to an article by the Associated Press, the takedown request came from the film's owner, Constantin Films, quoting Martin Moszkowicz, head of film and TV at Constantin films in Munich.
"When does parody stop? It is a very complicated issue," Moszkowicz said in the article. "So we are taking a simple approach: Take them all down."
Organizations such as the Jewish Anti-Defamation League had also requested the clips' removal, saying they trivialized the Holocaust.
While some might feel that the parodies brought attention to a lesser-known movie, Moszkowicz said the company had not seen any increase in DVD sales.
Ironically, the director of the film, Oliver Hirschbiegel, told New York in January that he enjoyed the parodies. "You couldn't get a better compliment as a director," he told the magazine, adding that he'd seen about 145 of them at that point -- though he did wish he got the royalties for them.
Needless to say, YouTube now boasts numerous Downfall parodies ranting against Constantin Films' action.