2010-05-07

Downfall

A couple of weeks ago Constantin Films took steps to have a clip from the movie "Der Untergang" ("The Downfall") removed from YouTube.

If you've been living under a rock for the past years the significance of this may need a brief explanation.  A clip from the movie in which Hitler berates his generals as he realizes the war is lost has been used for parodic purposes.  People would upload the scene in question, but with their own subtitles -- so that in the parodies (if parody is the right term) Hitler is upset about everything from being kicked off Xbox Live to Apple's iPad.  The video is now considered one of the important Internet memes.



In having the clips removed from Youtube Constantin Films demonstrated, at best, that they are culturally ignorant and possibly incompetent when it comes to marketing.  At worst they are guilty of abusing the Digital Millenium Copyright Act by issuing takedown notices for what is likely to fall under "fair use".  If so, Constantin Films could be liable for their actions if someone bothers to take this to court.

Since this might have some educational value for the movie industry I am hoping someone will try to take this to court.  There is a certain symmetry and beauty to the idea of bludgeoning the movie industry with the very laws they abuse to harass common folk.

But being a film production company you would think that they would be more sensitive to the cultural aspects.  Not only did these clips represent an important part of Internet culture, but it was also a great vehicle for promoting the movie itself.  Many people I know saw the movie after seeing the parodies on YouTube.  I can only try to imagine how extraordinarily feebleminded the people at Constantin Film AG are not to understand this.

It is also strange that they would exhibit such cultural insensitivity given that the movie itself was not without some controversy:  the nazi era is a extraordinarily touchy subject in Germany and not a topic that is approached lightly.

One would think that a production company that relies on a certain degree of tolerance to bring their product to market would likewise be ready to exhibit some tolerance towards other forms of cultural expressions.

Finally, this act of cultural vandalism is yet another reminder that something needs to be done about the rampant abuse of copyright law.

As a friend of mine noted: "Downfall" and "movie industry" are probably closely related terms in 2010...

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