Constantin Films celebrates Hitler's birthday by forcing YouTube to remove Hitler 'Downfall' parodies over copyright claim

by CynthiaYockey on April 20, 2010

Personally, I don’t think I would have chosen April 20, the 121st anniversary of Hitler’s birthday, as the day I forced YouTube to take down the parody videos made using the bunker scene from the Academy Award-nominated 2004 German film, “Downfall,” about Hitler’s last days. But that’s just me.

Constantin Films made copyright claims to YouTube to force the company to take down the popular clips, which put subtitles over the German dialog. They said they were protecting the actors, but I couldn’t find information on how this would affect the actors except by making them a LOT more famous.

I’m disappointed because I was looking forward to learning how to write Hitler “Downfall” parodies myself. Parody is a fair use of the material, but if Constantin Films challenges a parody maker, they’re on their own to file a “fair use” claim.

Popeater reports:

‘Downfall’ director Oliver Hirschbiegel expressed an opposing view in an interview with New York magazine’s Vulture: “Someone sends me the links every time there’s a new one. I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! 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. I think it’s only fair if now it’s taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like.”

“Killing ‘Hitler Reacts’ has to be the worst decision in movie-making history since someone gave Rob Schneider a job,” says Nick Douglas, senior editor at our viral-minded partner Urlesque. “Before, there was this film called ‘Downfall’ that a few American film and history buffs knew. After the ‘Downfall’ parodies, there was a whole new audience. I’m tempted to say it’s because Old Media doesn’t get it — but I think it’s more nuanced. By now, most studios and labels sort of ‘get’ what’s going on — they just want more control.”

Douglas also wonders if the videos’ creators may be able to defend their mash-ups as protected works of parody. The Supreme Court defines parody as “the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works,” Douglas points out. “Seems like the ‘Downfall’ parodies fit that description. They make comparisons between an important historical event as interpreted by the film and much sillier modern events. But who’s going to fight a court battle over a YouTube clip?”

Constantin Films did not respond to PopEater’s request for comment.

Update, 4/21/2010, Wed.: Little Miss Attila has a brilliant solution to fill the void, which does not require the cooperation of Constantin Films. Moe Lane, great strategic thinker that he is, proposes we make Constantin Films an offer they would be foolish to refuse — I love it, and I’m in. Stacy McCain mourns the loss and longs for the one meme that can no longer console him.

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Syd April 21, 2010 at 11:31 am

Oh, I’m sick about it! Those never failed to make me laugh.
.-= Syd´s last blog ..A response to all those warming lube commercials (NSFW) =-.

Cynthia Yockey April 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm


I like Moe Lane’s suggestion that we find out what their price is — how many DVDs of Downfall do we have to buy — for Constantin to allow the parodies to continue. I think the real problem may be that the producers may feel personally mocked — when really the clips are being to used mock everyone EXCEPT them and the actors in the film. Well — until they banned the parodies.



Gentle readers — be sure to click the link for Syd’s post in her comment for a very funny parody video!

Ad rem April 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Rush mentioned the removal of the Hitler parodies on his show this morning. He said he was moved to actually go out and buy the movie after having watched so many of the parodies. I think this just might bring a little national attention to the matter.

Cynthia Yockey April 22, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Ad rem,

Moe Lane suggested that we make an informal deal with Constantin that they give permission for the parodies if we buy a certain number of DVDs of Downfall. I like that plan and hope we can work something out. Really, we need to start a conversation with the producers.

My theory is that the producers began to feel like THEY were the ones being mocked, which is absolutely not true. And maybe they believe their film is famous and selling on its own merits, even though they are in a crowded niche and there is no suspense whatsoever about the ending. I do want to buy Downfall as a result of the parodies because it seems like an excellent film AND I want to see the context of the clips that are used for the parodies (the bunker clip isn’t the only one used). However, without the parodies, I would not be interested in it no matter how well it is done. So I hope the producers at Constantin come to their senses and permit the parodies again.

I’m also starting to think it would be fun to watch non-English-language films now just to look out for scenes that could be lifted for sub-title parodies. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!


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