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.
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