3 Reasons YouTube Shouldn't Censor Downfall Parodies


The video sharing site YouTube.com recently started blocking access to countless parodies of the 2004 German movie Downfall, a critically acclaimed film that chronicles Adolf Hitler's final days in a Berlin bunker.

The parodies take off from a powerful monologue by the great actor Bruno Ganz and the original joke version had Hitler being banned from XBox Live for bad behavior. Other examples feature Hitler trying to score Miley Cyrus concert tickets, counseling Conan O'Brien after losing a late-night slot to Jay Leno, and much more.

It's understandable why Downfall's production company, Constantin Film, might be upset that such a serious movie is being burlesqued, but pushing YouTube to ban the parodies is a terrible idea for at least three reasons:

1. It's fair use! The parodies, which transform a few minutes of a three-hour movie, are clearly legit under existing copyright laws. Because they clearly transform the original and have no possibility of confusing viewers, the parodies are clearly protected speech.

2. This is free promotion! As George Lucas could tell the filmmakers, fan-generated videos help keep the original source material vital and relevant. Lucas used to try to police all Star Wars knock-offs, until he realized that his audience was promoting his films more effectively than he ever could. More people have surely seen Downfall due to the popularity of the parodies.

3. Let's keep the Internet creative! The greatest cultural development over the past 20 or so years has been technologies that allow producers and consumers to create and enjoy an ever-increasing array of creative expression in an ever-increasing array of circumstances. This development is nowhere more powerful than on the Internet, which has unleashed a whole new universe of writing, music, video, and more. Indeed, YouTube is itself one of the great conduits of cyberspace. Pulling down the Downfall parodies may be within YouTube's rights, but it nonetheless strikes a blow to the heart of what is totally awesome about the Internet.

"3 Reason YouTube Shouldn't Censor Downfall Parodies" is written and produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, who also hosts.

Approximately 2:49 minutes. Scroll down for iPod, HD, and audio versions. Subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube channel for automatic notification when new material goes live.

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  1. This is a parody, right?

  2. Those of you who wanted to read an article supporting the ban, leave the room now!

    1. Hahahahaha!!

  3. I’ll give you five reasons you should shut up.

    [Clenches fist]

  4. Godwin is so rolling over in his grave right now.

      1. Okay, his tomb, or whatever the politically correct term is these days.

        Unrelated, how did you get your font orange like that?

        1. Fist, Godwin isn’t dead. The “orange font” is a linky.

          1. That why he can roll over in his tomb :p

              1. It isn’t you, FoE, this place does things to the sarcasm meter. I try and get mine calibrated daily, and it still misfires on a regular basis.

    1. I’m sorry, what was that?
      I’ve been a little busy in Arizona lately.

  5. Yeah, Youtube is being a douche for doing this.
    I got banned temporarily, by doing something with a clip from Saturday Night Live, when it was obviously a fair use issue. Even wrote them an e-mail and quoted the relevant passage of the law. They never responded.

  6. I can honestly say that I rented Downfall because of the xbox parody.

    1. I can say I was going to watch it because of the parodies, but now Im not going to.

    2. Was the actual movie just as funny?

  7. I dont think #3 is a good point. Oh, I agree with it, but I dont think the movie companies like it at all. They want tight control over creation. Allowing anyone to be creative eats into the bottom line. Im not talking about parodies, per se, but they really dont want to see production being cheap and available to the masses. Same for the music industry…if you dont have to go thru a label, they are screwed in the long run.

    And, to be honest, I think they are only okay with parodies if its SNL or the like, so that the profits stay inside the industry. If Downfall had been a big hit movie and SNL had done the x-box parody, do you think there would have been any attempt to shut it down?

  8. Fuck Downfall! We’ll go with Anthony Hopkin’s Hitler. Or his Nixon. Or a dozen others.

    1. OK, can check that off the things to do list…


    2. Way to stick it to The Man!

  9. Well, I can still see a lot of these parodies on the tube. So, what is all de fuzz about?

  10. Just parody my keynotes. Not that big of a deal.

    Posted from my iPad

  11. Fuck you! And your little kitty too!

  12. Number 3 is not a good point because these parodies stopped being creative about 3,987 versions ago.


  14. “Ich bin ein Berliner!”

  15. He said, “screwing the pooch”.

  16. The 2nd reason is just dumb. It’s not youtube’s decision to make how someone else chooses to promote their product. So arguing that it is good for the film and filmmakers doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Let’s say I just started making advertisements for the film for free. I wasn’t parodying anything but I just wanted to help the film out. Nobody would question that I don’t have a legal right or even a moral one to do that, especially if the filmmakers asked me to stop.

    1. Nathan, you are kidding right? I cannot even imagine such a viewpoint. Are you an electric monk by chance?

      It’s the filmmakers decision to request censorship of youtube. It’s youtube’s discretion to fulfill said request. As a private business they can do whatever they want. You can’t compel them either way.”Nobody would question” begs the question. Get it now?

      Also why did you bring up moral rights? Only a fool would risk trying to legislate morality. For example lets assume someone thinks working on sunday is immoral and legislates inactivity on sunday. Ok fine done. Now, I think religion is the most immoral practice that is yet to be observed (I actually do). Yay now its gone and we’re all happy, right? Nope not until we have stolen every other right we can think of from each other.
      It would take a constitutional amendment to outlaw religion, which means that it’s next to impossible, plus the premise is silly to start with. Were everyone on earth to submit to me and let me codify all law, I would still not ban it, just because I don’t like it. On the contrary as I embrace the concept of personal freedom as the greatest achievement of humankind. Whenever someone says ‘there should be a law against it’ chances are there shouldn’t.

      Sorry to rant, but when someone uses the word ‘moral’, that’s my go button.
      Please consider your diction(in this case word choice) carefully, otherwise fuck a horse on fire.

      Note: go ahead and hate my hating religion. I have a right to hate, you have a right to hate my hate. Yet I don’t ‘hate’ religion, but I Imagine Lennon was right about his view of a world with a lack of it.

  17. I have argued in the book cited below that the Hitler Downfall parodies are of great cultural and political significance. I think that when all this blows over there will still be thousands of Downfall parodies on YouTube.

    Dr. Strangelove
    University of Ottawa
    Author of Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People (University of Toronto Press, 2010)

  18. Some people teach to kill. Keep christianity legal!! rom 12:2 kjv. rev 12:9kjv. gal 3:2kjv.Duetero, 1 corinth 14:26. Lord Jesus is analytical,coolest. love and drugs at a correct time. Matth – golden rule. Righteoussness not selfcent,not selfrighteouss.Not how many oxen, how strong the ox is. Amen!!Evil stinks.Say no to abortion. A new cell, genetics, a new person!Watchout for cheating gov?

  19. Be careful, the po-lice might think you’re promoting copyright violation and come to your house and shoot your family pets while “serving a warrant”.

    Seriously though, YouTube has really become douchey and backs down before any threat from someone who might be a lawyer.

  20. Hillary’s Downfall was most funny during the heat of the campaign. That parody, the Vista parody, the real estate parody, are already dated. Constantin Film picked a good moment to act.

  21. Defending copyright laws in this age of the internets is like trying to pound butter up a wildcat’s ass: Sure, you can try and do it, but you’ll be fucking torn to shreds in the process.

  22. I’m having problems locating it but, I’d like to shoot you an e-mail. I’ve got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it expand over time. http://www.itunes.com/download

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