Thursday, April 26, 2012

Parodies with Hitler are Suddenly Bad

This may be old news for geeks and a lot of other people, but it illustrates perfectly one of the central points about copyright abuse.  I'm speaking, of course, of one of my favorite internet "memes"-- the Downfall Hitler parody.

There is a scene in the movie Downfall where Hitler goes on a rant.  Turns out it works very nicely as a really quite enjoyable vehicle for any particular satire you care to do, with some nicely placed mistranslations in place of the original film's subtitles.

In any case, Constantin Films, the movie's distributor, started filing Digital Millenium Copyright Act requests to YouTube several years after the movie's release to remove these parody videos because it was alleged they infringed their copyright.  Since these are obviously parody, they are very much protected (in the U.S., at least) as fair use.  But yet, somehow, a draconian copyright enforcement law (the DMCA) was blatantly abused by this company, resulting in the stifling of straight-up free speech rights by the creators of the spoof videos.

We'll be talking a lot about DMCA abuse as an argument against even more over-reaching laws.  There has been quite a lot of it, you see, which seemed obviously destined to occur to anyone paying attention at the time the law was passed.  It was a terrible idea at the time, and it still is, now.

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