Movie Distributor Bans Popular Hitler Parodies, Shoots Self In Foot

The sober World War II movie Downfall took on a second life when its infamous Hitler breakdown scene was applied to current events like the 4G iPhone leak or the PlayStation 3. But now the distributor has cracked down on all the videos -- killing its free movie adverting.

From Boing Boing:

Copyright claims against various Hitler Downfall parody videos have resulted in the removal of these videos from YouTube. The DMCA claimant is Constantin Films, the German production company which owns rights to the 2004 film Der Untergang ("Downfall"), from which the source video is excerpted. Boy, is Hitler ever gonna be pissed.
Intellectual property should be defended, but not at the cost of its cultural and, in this case, financial value.

Released in 2004, Downfall was a modest cult hit. Then, a few years later, smart YouTube uploaders changed the subtitles of Hitler's pivital tantrum scene to address the tech let down of the moment, from no Flash on the iPhone to the Playstation 3 problems. The iPad's missing camera? Microsoft's maligned Vista? Each tech judgement brought a new Downfall parody. It pushed the small film back into the cultural conscousness and, based on feedback on other blogs, more than a few people purchased or rented Downfall based on the videos.

Constantin Films, evidently, wanted to end any future relevance of its film. Like the NFL telling New Orleans Saints patrons it owned the "Who Dat" slogan, Constantin Films is punishing the very audience that has provided free viral advertising. The 7-minute or so Downfall clip used in the parodies constituted a very small part of the movie, and was, essentially, harmless, particularly compared to it's promotional value.

In New York magazine Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel said:

Someone sends me the links every time there's a new one," says the director, on the phone from Vienna. "I think I've seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I'm laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn't get a better compliment as a director."
But, of course, keeping the videos up is not his choice.

A wiser company would support the audience by:

  • Creating an annual contest for the best parody
  • Rereleasing the movie DVD with the parodies as bonus footage
  • Doing a small doc on the Downfall phenomenon available exclusively on the Constantin Films website
Instead, it's trying to suppress interest to maintain control. As we all know, that strategy worked out well for the music industry.

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