My favorite Internet meme (and how it almost died)

I have been tracking the Hitler-Downfall parodies for over two years now and it seems that they keep getting better and better. But over the last few days comes the news that Constantin films, which owns the rights to the original movie asked YouTube to find and take down every video that included a clip from the film. So the parodies have been vanishing from YouTube, which is a tragedy for creative freedom and the the right to create and disseminate parodies. This was one of the funniest Internet memes, capable of delivering pitch-perfect commentary on everything from Hillary Clinton’s loss in the Democratic Primaries, to the fact that the iPad did not have a camera! Farhad Manjoo has a great article about this meme (and links to a couple of awesome parodies), titled: YouTube vs. Der Führer

One of the interesting points he makes about the Content ID technology that YouTube uses to identify copyright infringement. As he says:

At its heart, Content ID is like a souped-up version of the FBI’s fingerprinting database. The entertainment industry keeps sending YouTube new reference files for movies, TV shows, songs, video games, and other content. YouTube scans every new upload and the millions of videos in its database against each of these files. David King, a YouTube product manager, told me that the system can find extremely fuzzy matches. It can spot when a copyrighted video has been transformed in some way by an uploader—for instance, it can finger a basketball game even if you pause, rewind, and then replay a clip from it, and it can identify Eric Cartman if you record a clip of  South Park by holding your camera up to your TV.

How amazing is that! Also Manjoo points out that one of the smartest things that Constantin films could have done is take advantage of this free publicity to run advertisements for the original movie/DVD. As Manjoo says,

Constantin never bothered to exercise its rights to run ads on the Downfall clips… according to YouTube, the vast majority of content owners who take part in Content ID are now recouping revenue from videos rather than pulling them down. Constantin would have earned a lot of money—not to mention avoided a lot of bad publicity—had it done the same thing.

It appears that some of the clips have started coming back, as users complain about their videos being taken down. YouTube policy automatically posts videos back if a copyright infringement claim is contested.

Personally, this has been a video / remix that has already given me hours of entertainment. It is a simple idea but with great potential and a wonderful example of the creative possibilities of giving people the opportunity to appropriate, mix and publish media.

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