I had been withholding comment on the flurry of takedowns against remixes of the Hitler-ranting bunker scene from the film, The Downfall. I would be surprised if any of you reading this haven’t seen at least one of these remixes. The scene is pretty recognizable, starting with Hitler ranting at his assembled staff only to dismiss most of them followed by a raise to a fervor pitch cut with scenes from the concerned staff out in the hall still able to hear every spittle flecked syllable.
Over the past few months, it has become de rigeur to add subtitles tying the dictator’s incredulity to some inanity in the info sphere that defied common sense. Many of the remixes are apt, matching the emotional tone of the scene to some notional commentator’s outrage over some event or maneuver perceived to be utterly brain dead.
At first the takedowns seemed like yet another case of a rights holder’s cluelessness. The story took a turn into a surprising metastory when Constantin Films issued a takedown for the remix commenting on the takedowns themselves. This latest video to be targeted was created by EFF’s Brad Templeton.
As I understand the nature of parody as relates to fair use, use of material for that purpose has to target the material used or the creator. Much of the remixes probably don’t technically qualify as fair use though I doubt anyone would argue that a four minute clip could in anyway substitute for the original work. Templeton’s work probably has the best chance for fitting the definition of parody with regards to the source material, in no small part thanks to the work of Constantin Films.
I suspect the meme may now take a turn fully against the over reaching rights holder. In his blog post to which I linked, where Templeton still embeds the video but from a competitor, Vimeo, he starts to hint at some of the limitations of YouTube’s Content ID filter. The implication is that since the same clip is used for all these memetic mashups, the fingerprint is similar enough, if not the same, to actually make the filter’s work much easier. This may also mark its weakness to people determined to protest the takedowns.
Cory has a post on Boing Boing that puts Content ID to an empirical test of these limits. Scott Smitelli experimented with a different video but the results about what did and did not foil the filter should hold for the clip from The Downfall.
I suspect we may see some videos that maybe don’t entirely make sense, having been tweaked, but drive the point home that rights holders tread on fair use at their own risk where users are merely sharing the fruits of their experiments in media literacy.