IP Extremism In Action? – YouTube To Remove Hitler Memes

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Sometimes the world just seems upside-down.  Case in point:  YouTube has begun the daunting task of removing all the clips of the movie Downfall (the now-infamous Hitler-getting-mad clip) due to a copyright claim from Constantin Films.

That is exactly the opposite of what most online marketing consultants would advise Constantin Films to do.  Why?  Because of all the free publicity that this Hitler meme has brought their little German-language film.  How many people are aware of the movie now that wouldn’t have been had they not seen one of the parodies on YouTube?  How many more people have then gone and watched the original film?  My guess is that it’s a lot.

There is no threat to income for the studio, as the parody clips aren’t being sold—though I imagine some of the uploaders have placed ads on their clip.  There is no chance of anyone mistaking one of the parody clips for the real thing.  I just can’t put my finger on a logical reason why Constantin would take this step.  Unless it’s Opposite Day.

One of the most widely-accepted truths of celebrity and fame is that when your little artistic creation accidentally stumbles into the spotlight and soars to popularity you never conceived of… you ride that train, you don’t sabotage it.  This is akin to the copyright holder of “Never Gonna Give You Up” demanding that YouTube pull the Rick-Roll video… just wouldn’t make any sense.  Granted, that video was removed two months ago, but it ultimately proved to have been a mistake on YouTube’s end and not a copyright infringement issue.

I guess maybe I’m operating on some assumptions.  I assume, for example, that Constantin Films is in business to make money off their films.  I assume that in Germany (as in the U.S.), the more people that see your film, the more successful you are as a film studio.

This isn’t a personal video from an individual who suddenly wants anonymity back—in which case a copyright notice takedown would make sense.  This is a movie studio, in business to try and get a wider and wider audience for their movies.  Heck, even the director of the original film gets a kick out of the spoofs:

“Someone sends me the links every time there’s a new one. 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.”

I should stop for a second and make a confession: I was ready for the end of these Hitler parody videos to come.  It was long overdue.  A part of me is thrilled that I won’t have to see another in a line of thousands of clips making the same jokes in different ways.  Ooooh, Hitler’s angry about something silly.  Hilarious the first few times… and hardly worth a chuckle since then.

But I am not Constantin Films.  I am a user… a viewer.  Even the best jokes get old when they’re run into the ground.  But there’s no denying that a large portion of the public loved these videos, and they were racking up the views.

If you work in technology consulting like I do, you’ve no doubt had at least one encounter with a client that seems insistent on doing the wrong thing, despite your expert advice to the contrary.  That has to be what’s happened here.  Somewhere in Germany there is an exasperated Internet Marketing consultant banging his head against a boardroom table.

Even if the studio chose to be offended by the overuse of the clip, they could still have used the Content ID system to claim their copyright and place advertisements on the many parodies.  That way you make some revenue at the same time you’re piling up fans.   It’s interesting to note that there is some debate about the studio’s legal right to even have the clips pulled at all, since they constitute parodies, which have some extra protections from standard copyright law.

I’m not surprised by the move—entertainment production companies have demonstrated a hard-hearted attitude when it comes to embracing the web and its sharing capabilities.  But it’s still the wrong move.  There are millions who are aware of your movie solely because of these parody videos—your movie is famous.  Having the clips pulled is just a fast track back to obscurity.

Here’s the real question in all this:  is there enough time—while YouTube is still removing clips—for one final Downfall parody to go viral?  A Downfall parody where Hitler gets upset about all the Downfall parodies infringing on his copyright is a pretty decent candidate in my book:


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