First, they came for the Hitler meme. But we were silent…

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Or, on the other hand, this may be a good thing:

You know about the [ooh.. something spooky just happened. tell you later] Adolph Hitler video memes, where conversation about pretty much anything (the new iPod, the latest ballgame, whatever) is superimposed over german dialog from Downfall (the 2004 film) giving Hitler and his last remaining bunker-bound Nazi-symps funny dialog.

Here, for reference, is the original in German:

Well, apparently, the era Hitlering our discourse has gone the way of the Dodo and the Third Reich:

On Tuesday, the clips on YouTube, many of which had been watched
by hundreds of thousands, even millions, began disappearing from the site. Constantin Films, the company that owns the rights to the film, asked for them to be removed, and YouTube complied.

Martin Moszkowicz, head of film and TV at Constantin films in Munich, said the company had been fighting copyright infringement for years. Jewish organizations have also complained about the tastefulness of the clips, he said.

“When does parody stop? It is a very complicated issue,” Moszkowicz said. “So we are taking a simple approach: Take them all down. We’ve been doing it for years now. The important thing is to protect our copyright. We are very proud of the film.”

This is a rather sticky wicket. Tastefullness considerations are valid, but is it the case that any act of expression X that simply uses Hitler is tasteless? Does the content matter? Is making fun of a deadly serious subject always bad? These are all valid questions. Indeed, this very post you are reading could be interpreted as on the edge (no accident).

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the league was “delighted.”

“We find them offensive,” Foxman said of the videos. “We feel that they trivialize not only the Holocaust but World War II. Hitler is not a cartoon character.”

As far as copyright goes, screw them. That was parody, it was limited, it was legal. Martin Moszkowicz is a meanie.

I strongly suspect that the decision was based on economics. The parodies could have helped sales, but as it turns out, they did not.

Moszkowicz disputed the idea that all the attention to “Downfall,” which grossed $5.5 million at the U.S. box office and was nominated for a best foreign language film Oscar, had helped the movie.

“We have not been able to see any increase in DVD sales,” he said. “There is no correlation between Internet parodies and sales of a movie, at least not that I am aware of.”

I suppose the smart thing to do would have been this: Whenever any of us posted one of those parodies, we should have provided a credit to the movie (I admit that until now, I did not know what movie that was.) And a link to a DVD source.

Next time, let’s remember to do that. Keep the openness and the market forces in line with each other, we get more.

Since I vowed a few weeks ago to never post one of these, I’m not much personally affected. I will, however, be looking for the latest version that parodies the end of the meme. I’ll post it here if I find it.


Hat Tip: Lassi Hippeläinen


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