Hitler Reacts to Idiot Copyright Pursuits
The incredibly prolific Internet meme in which Adolph Hitler goes hysterical over happenings in American pop culture is under siege, thanks to an idiotic copyright enforcement decision.
‘Hitler Reacts to…’ — that patron saint of YouTube memes — seems to be on its way out. The clips, which dub a scene from the 2004 German-language film ‘Downfall,’ are being rapidly pulled by Constantin Films, which is claiming copyright infringement.
The film features Hitler (portrayed by Bruno Ganz), ensconced in his bunker, learning he cannot win the war. The viral video versions tweak the subtitles to have Hitler reacting explosively to current events, both mundane and massive, including Michael Jackson’s death, Kanye West’s VMAs incident and the Hollywood adaptation of ‘Twilight.’ All have been major YouTube hits.
“Earlier today, someone attempted to upload a new version surrounding the massive iPhone 4G news. Unfortunately, as you can see on YouTube, that video has already been removed,” TechCrunch reported yesterday. The New York Times covered the phenomenon in 2008, estimating more than 100 instances of the Hitler meme.
“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.”
Not only is this incredibly short-sighted but it surely misapplies copyright law. There’s a longstanding fair use exception for parody. And taking four minutes out of a longish movie and totally changing its context with original writing has to be considered transformative.
My strong guess is that Hitler will not react well to this move.
UPDATE: A commenter points out that German copyright law may be different. That’s a good point. Presumably, Google (which owns YouTube) is under pressure to enforce non-American intellectual property law.