Viral videos and Internet memes, by nature, come and go pretty fast. The web’s attention span is pretty low. Some memes that have endured the test of time are the Hitler ‘Downfall’ videos, which have been linked to anything from banned Xbox 360 Live accounts to the Apple iPad. Literally, hundreds of parody clips have been made using the same four minutes of the film. All that may be over, though, YouTube is now taking down the clips due to copyright violation requests.
Many of the more popular Hitler clips have been taken down and others are sure to follow. The videos are the victim of Content ID, the YouTube copyrighted content filtering technology. The tool scans all the videos uploaded to YouTube and compares them with its increasing database of known copyrighted works. If it finds a match, it may remove the video or just disable the audio, depending on the preference of the copyright holder.
It seems that Constantin Film, the production company behind the movie, has added Downfall (Der Untergang) to the filtering system, resulting in videos taken down. The problem is, most of these videos, if not all, fall under fair use as parodies and no content owner would have a legal claim, in the US, in taking them down.
But, since Content ID was put into place to keep big media and content owners happy, the legality of the act comes second. Users can file a dispute if they believe they are within their rights to post the videos, but the procedure is slow and convoluted.
And the best example of just how broken the entire system is is that the people involved with the movie actually loved most of the parody clips and were happy for all the attention they brought to their film. The director of Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel, thinks the videos are funny and a great compliment to him as a director. Bernd Eichinger, writer and producer of the movie, also thinks most of the videos are “tremendously amusing” and that the whole phenomenon “is moviemaking heaven.”
Here’s a video EFF board member Brad Templeton made about the takedowns, which, ironically enough, was also removed from YouTube.