Recently, the German film production company Constantin Film AG began issuing takedown notices to people who had posted re-subtitled clips from Constantin’s copyrighted movie Der Untergang, known to Americans as “Downfall.”
In an Internet meme that began years ago but caught on at a whole new level this year, people used basic video editing tools such as Windows Movie Maker to add funny subtitles to clips from the super-serious film, so that Adolf Hitler appeared to be enraged because his iPhone app was rejected, or because his favorite TV show was canceled. The fad grew so huge that The New York Times published how-to instructions. It seemed strange that Constantin waited so long to do anything, especially since the movie’s producer expressed his love for the parodies.
Today, a Google product manager who works on YouTube posted a blog entry explaining that YouTube now has an automated system for dealing with takedown notices such as those from Constantin. It’s built around YouTube’s Content ID system for identifying and managing individual clips.
Here’s the surprise part: If a YouTube user chooses to dispute a claim of copyright infringement by claiming to be within the bounds of American “fair use” laws, the video — which YouTube would have removed as soon as the infringement claim was made — will be restored to YouTube immediately. The claimant must then file a formal notification under rules specified by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
In short, the new system benefits makers of parody remixes of video clips, because parody is one of the areas covered by fair use laws. It’s hard to say exactly where the boundaries are, but YouTube has basically put the burden back onto copyright holders to get their works taken down, rather than challenging YouTube members to keep them up.