Hitler taken down... again

Although the Downfall parody videos have been around for over a year, YouTube has bowed to pressure from studio Constantin Films, and has started to remove the most popular clips.

The memes, where the original subtitles have been replaced by comedy rants on all manner of contemporary subjects - including being banned on Xbox Live and Susan Boyle failing to win last year's Britain's Got Talent - have been deemed to breach copyright laws, and are currently being removed by the video site.

The most viewed ones have already been replaced with copyright infringement notices, while hundreds of others are expected to follow suit as YouTube's automated content ID system catches up with them.

The move has caused quite a stir on the Internet, with many sites claiming that, as parodies, the Downfall memes fall under global Fair Use policies. These allow for clips or movie stills, for example, to be published without permission of the original copyright holder, as long as the content is being used for the purposes of criticism. However, this policy only relates to criticism of the clip's subject matter itself, such as a film review, and as the Hitler parodies are generally spoofs of unrelated issues, rather than the movie itself, Fair Use doesn't apply.

This doesn't answer the question, though, of why Constantin Films has requested that the clips come down a full 6 years after Downfall's release. Indeed, the director actually approves of the parodies: "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 revealed to New York Mag in January. "I think it's only fair if now it's taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like".

It can even be argued that sales of Downfall on DVD and Blu-ray have been bolstered by the memes being at the forefront of public consciousness - after all, how many other small budget, foreign-language movies have had this much advertising? And for free?

Whatever the result of the YouTube cull, for now it only seems right that the last word goes to Brad Templeton of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and his timely Hitler parody...