YouTube Pulls Hitler 'Downfall' Parodies Downfall, a German film about Adolf Hitler, has spawned dozens of video parodies on everything from Michael Jackson to the iPad. Users add new subtitles for a scene in the film and then upload the videos to YouTube. The movie's producer is claiming copyright infringement.
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YouTube Pulls Hitler 'Downfall' Parodies

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YouTube Pulls Hitler 'Downfall' Parodies

YouTube Pulls Hitler 'Downfall' Parodies

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Over the last few years, Hitler has become the subject of a number of video parodies on YouTube. They all use the same grim scene from a German drama about Hitler's last days and turn it into satire. The parodies were incredibly popular until suddenly they started to disappear.

NPR's Laura Sydell has the story.

LAURA SYDELL: The scene is Hitler's bunker in Berlin in the last days of the war. A tired nervous-looking officer reports what is clearly going to be bad news to the furor.

(Soundbite of movie, "Downfall")

Unidentified Man: (German spoken)

SYDELL: If you understand the German, you know that Hitler's getting bleak news about the German defenses. But if you don't - and most Americans probably don't - you read the subtitles. That's where the fun happens. People add their own subtitles. In one recent version, Hitler gets told that the new iPad can't multitask.

(Soundbite of movie, "Downfall")

Mr. BRUNO GANZ (Actor): (as Hitler) (German spoken)

SYDELL: Hitler rants about its lack of flash, lousy AT&T service, a name that suggests a feminine hygiene product. Using this scene from an Academy Award-nominated German film called "Downfall," the subtitles have had Hitler, played by Bruno Ganz, ranting about everything from Kanye West's behavior on the MTV awards to Patti LuPone winning a Tony.

Millions of people have seen at least one version. Then a couple of days ago, the videos started to disappear.

Constantin Films, which owns the rights to " Downfall," decided to use YouTube's content ID system. It works like a fingerprint system: a content owner puts their film or song into content ID, and YouTube can find every video that uses any part of a film, like say, " Downfall," says YouTube's Aaron Zamost.

Mr. AARON ZAMOST (YouTube): And we're scanning every user upload against a reference database of over three million files.

SYDELL: The content ID system was a response by the Google-owned YouTube to complaints by big media companies that people were stealing their content when they put it up on YouTube. Zamost says the system also lets content owners keep up their clips and put ads next to them so they can make money.

Mr. ZAMOST: We tried to build a tool that allows rights holders to manage the use of their content by users but that also gives them, say, an option to make money from it.

SYDELL: That may be great for content owners, but it may not be in line with copyright law.

Corynne McSherry, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, explains that there's something called fair use. It lets people use a film clip or a paragraph from an article or a piece of music if they are creating commentary or satire.

Ms. CORYNNE MCSHERRY (Attorney): And all the ones that I have seen are very strong fair use cases and so they're not infringing, and they shouldn't be taken down. But via this filter system they're taken down virtually automatically.

SYDELL: Fortunately, this is not Berlin in 1944 and Hitler parodies are appearing on other sites, including one that makes fun of Constantin Films for acting a little authoritarian. And the people who made parodies and put them on YouTube can appeal to YouTube for restoration on that site.

Laura Sydell, NPR News.

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