Downfall Parodies Banned

Posted Wednesday April 21, 2010 by John Gunders in |

It seems that the Downfall parody clips on Youtube don’t amuse everyone.

The 2004, Oscar-nominated film by Oliver Hirschbiegel about the final days of Adoph Hitler has provided the basis for a persistent internet meme in which a key bunker scene is re-subtitled to have Hitler ranting about everything from poor grammar to Twitter’s tendancy to crash.

One of the fans of the parodies is Hirschbiegel himself. An interview published in New York Magazine earlier this year has this:

“Someone sends me the links every time there’s a new one,” says the director, on the phone from Vienna. “I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. 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.” Some of Hirschbiegel’s favorites are the one where Hitler hears of Michael Jackson’s death, and one in which the Fuhrer can’t get Billy Elliot tickets.

Hirschbiegel’s view is not just that all publicity is good, although that must enter into it a bit, but that for people traumatised by the Second World War, laughing at Hitler is demystifying:

As for the idea of such a serious scene being used for laughs, Hirschbiegel thinks it actually fits with the theme of the movie. “The point of the film was to kick these terrible people off the throne that made them demons, making them real and their actions into reality,” he says. “I think it’s only fair if now it’s taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like.” He adds, “If only I got royalties for it, then I’d be even happier.”

Read the whole interview here.

But the film’s distribution company, Constantin Film, doesn’t agree, and has instructed Youtube to start taking down the clips. If you follow the link in the quote above about Michael Jackson’s death, you will receive the message, “This video contains content from Constantin Film, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”

Now this seems quite short-sighted because I suspect many people only know of the flim from the parodies. How many of those buy or hire the film out of curiosity cannot be determined, but the film’s fame is probably due more to the parodies than it is to its own quality. And anyway, I would have thought that the clips would have been legal under standard Fair Use clauses, particularly those citing lack of profit-motive, parody, and length of sample. But as most (perhaps all) of the clips have been created by amateurs, I guess no one is going to force the ban to be tested in court.

More here.

Pity really. I know of a book on memes coming out in October that has the Downfall parodies in its list of top ten internet memes.

Update: Hitler gets reprieve from YouTube

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