I’m so mad right now! Maybe this isn’t the best time to be writing but I don’t know what else to do? I have previously posted here about my fair use battles over my anti-conspiracy theorist work but today I was hit with a new, ridiculous and disgusting challenge to my YouTube account, over my documentary, You don’t know Hitler (2006).
The complete film has been posted for nearly four years and I periodically get claims against me from companies who say they own this sound recording or that image. These false claims were always dropped once I pushed back. Today, however, the German National Library [Deutsche Nationalbibliothek or DNB], acting through BR Enter Music, hit me with a copyright claim over my us of the National Socialist (Nazi) Anthem, “Horst Wessel Song” [Horst Wessel Lied], which you can find all over YouTube (including “Version 11”). According to BR Enter, DNB owns the “sound recording” rights to this track, “Version 11” specifically, which is allegedly the version I used in my film when I extracted it from the Nazi propaganda documentary, Victory of Faith [Der Sieg des Glaubens] (1933).
I disputed this claim through YouTube’s very poor dispute process, explaining reasons why I have every right to use this song, and YouTube sent me a second email stating, “The claimant has reviewed their claim and confirmed it was valid,” with no further explanation whatsoever. I put in another appeal, restating my reasons why this was wrong and asking YouTube to please stand up for my rights (it is never clear who you are actually talking to in this process, the “claimant,” YouTube, or both). Again, BR Enter simply, “confirmed that your video contains copyrighted material,” without any proof of this claim or any rebuttal to anything I had explained. Sadly, their word seems to be the only thing that YouTube cares about at this point.
So they have given me seven days to cancel my appeal and accept this lie or the video will be taken down on September 16 and a copyright strike will be applied to my account (three strikes and your channel is deleted from YouTube). Only after September 16 will YouTube allow me to file a, “counter-notification,” but it is not even clear what that means since the hyperlink they provided me simply takes me back to a list of all my videos currently on YouTube.
This is wrong on several levels, which I will do my best to explain below, but the bottomline here is that I need your help! Please email YouTube (email@example.com) and ask them to stand up for my rights as a documentary filmmaker and the rights of all of us who wish to learn from this terrible period in human history! Please email the DNB (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) and ask them to call off BR Enter from making such claims! Please email BR Enter (BRentermusic@gmail.com) and ask them to stop pushing this false case!
I’ll boil this down to three main points: 1) YouTube’s system is horrible. 2) My fair use argument was completely ignored. 3) I should not need to rely on a fair use argument since Nazi propaganda is not reasonably entitled to copyright protection in the first place.
- YouTube’s entire process for handling these claims is very inadequate and unfair. It presumes that the claimant is telling the truth and need not make any effort whatsoever to provide any proof or speak to anything you (the YouTube Channel owner) has said. The claimant alone gets to judge if they are correct and you have no rights.
- YouTube forces you to select one defense and one defense only for making your case. I selected the fact that this song is, “in the public domain,” because I believe that to be true. I could also make a, “fair use,” defense, which I did in the written portion of my explanation. My work does constitute fair use – it is an educational and political film that must use the historical material it discusses to explain the context of the events in those historical materials – but this was a secondary point, since the song in question does not belong to anyone. BR Enter could have said they disagree about the copyright but still have dropped the matter on fair use grounds. Instead, they said nothing about my fair use arguments, presumably since I could not select more than one argument under YouTube’s very limiting system, and they merely said that the song (more specifically, the recording of the song) is copyrighted.
- I do not accept any claim of copyright in relation to Nazi propaganda and this is a common practice established long before I was born. The United Kingdom expressly passed a law during the Second World War stating they did not recognize Nazi copyrights and the United State effectively did the same by freely using Nazi propaganda material in its own propaganda documentaries (most famously the Why We Fight Series (1942-1945) directed by legendary Hollywood filmmaker Frank Capra). This precedent was continued in the first major post war, non-governmental documentary to deal with the Holocaust, the French production, Night and Fog [Nuit et brouillard] (1955), which asked for no permission to use sounds and images recorded by criminals to document their criminality.The Nazi regime was rightfully convicted of, “Crimes Against Humanity.” They were a criminal organization, not a legitimate government, who wronged the entire world, yet people like BR Enter want you to believe that these monsters retained the copyright to their hateful work and passed these rights on to future generations of Germans for their discretionary use. That’s nonsense! Horst Wessel, the man who wrote the words to the song which bears his name, was a pimp who got himself killed probably because of his flesh peddling more than his politics, but he was turned into a martyr for the Nazi cause by the Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, Joseph Goebbels, because the men who killed Wessel were Communists. It was Goebbels who oversaw the recording and release of this song, in all of its versions. Is there a decent soul in the world who really thinks that men such as these, let alone the political party that perpetrated the Holocaust, should retain copyrights that others can acquire and control? What court would agree with such a repulsive position? We are all free to use and learn from this material, without limitation or permission.
It is so frustrating and difficult to pour your time and energy into historical projects and appear on interview programs and search out other avenues to grow your audience. Time and time again I feel I’m just banging my head against a wall and want nothing more than to give up. Then, on top of it all, I must defend myself from false legal challenges under a system that presumes I have no rights. I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this but I know I can’t give up on this particular fight. What BR Enter, DNB, and YouTube are doing is just wrong. Please, help me stand up to them!
Please email YouTube (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask them to stand up for my rights as a documentary filmmaker and the rights of all of us who wish to learn from this terrible period in human history! Please email the DNB (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask them to call off BR Enter from making such claims! Please email BR Enter (BRentermusic@gmail.com) and ask them to stop pushing this false case!
Thank you to those who have already written emails but I am hearing from others that they are not sure what to write. Here are some suggestions.
When I first wrote this I said that the portion of my film under contention was from Leni Riefenstahl’s, Victory of Faith (1933). Actually it is from Riefenstahl’s more famous propaganda film, Triumph of the Will (1935). Clips from both films, along with other Nazi propaganda works appear in my documentary, You don’t know Hitler. In my haste I confused them but the overall point remain the same; I have every right to use these things in an effort to education the general public.