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D-Day for the Hitler 'Downfall' parodies?

April 21, 2010 | 11:56 pm

It appears you won't have Adolf Hitler to kick around anymore, with your ironic subtitling and pop-cultural commentaries. According to Reuters, the Hitler Internet Meme Videos, also known as the Hitler Rant Parodies and the "Downfall" Mash-Ups, for years a staple of online japery, have begun to be deep-sixed from YouTube, where most of them park, under pressure from Constantin Film AG.

That company holds the copyright to Oliver Hirschbiegel's 2004 film "Der Untergang" (or "Downfall"), about the last days of the Third Reich, scenes from which are re-subtitled in order to make the Worst Man in History (played by Bruno Ganz) comment, at hysterical pitch, on the relatively banal happenings of life in the 21st century: the losses of sports teams, the disappointments of new technology ("Hitler Finds Out No Camera in iPod Touch"), the deaths and doings of pop stars and politicians. Some are very funny, many are undoubtedly funny only to the people who made them, and almost all of them use bad words. (Which is why there are no links to them here; this is a family blog.)

Naturally, there is outrage in the Webosphere, where the war between the owners of intellectual property and ... everybody else shows no sign of an armistice. (Director Hirschbiegel likes them himself, and clearly, as meme partisans have pointed out, it has made his movie far better known that it would have been otherwise.) Also naturally, there's a rant for that. (Multiple rants, in fact.) "Haven't they ever heard of fair use?" says the Hitler of "Hitler reacts to the Hitler parodies being removed from YouTube" (these things are meta to the max): "Title 17, U.S.C., Section 107? Parody is not an infringement of copyright."

Copyright infringement or fair use, no meme lasts forever, except possibly the Lolcats. (No problem linking to those.) Topical to a fault, the Hitler rant videos are outdated nearly as soon as they're posted, and I can tell you from experience that once you've seen, like, 10, you've seen 1,000; they stop being funny after awhile, even when they're funny. Just as the Fuhrer's own mad memes fell around his ears in the Berlin bunker "Downfall" recreates, these parodies, hardy as they have so far proved, may have already lost the war.

-- Robert Lloyd (twitting @LATimesTVLloyd)

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