Author Archives: Theo Plothe

Copyright Enforcement “Downfall”

da Silva and Garcia (2012) describe an interesting case of copyright enforcement on YouTube, regarding Constantin Films and the “Downfall meme,” where Internet users remixed a scene of the studio’s film Der Untergang with different subtitles, thereby juxtaposing a crucial emotional climax of the film regarding Hitler’s downfall in World War II with silly or mundane circumstances. Thomas and Pan (2010) counted a collection of 2,930 such parody videos on YouTube alone in an informal July 2010 survey with the five most popular totaling over 10 million hits in April of that same year. 

According to, the earliest known parody was uploaded to YouTube in 2006 by user DReaperF4. Subbed in Spanish, the video shows a belligerent Hitler seething over the paucity of new features in the demo version of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X (KnowYourMeme, 2007). In response to viewers, DReaperF4 later uploaded a version of  “Sim Heil: Der untersim” in English, only to see the original video deleted upon copyright claim by the film studio on December 26, 2009 (YouTomb, 2009).

Originally, director Oliver Hirschbiegel was supportive of the parodies, “The point of the film was to kick these terrible people off the throne that made them demons, making them real and their actions into reality. We think it’s only fair if now it’s taken as part of our history, and used for whatever purposes people like” (Klang and Nolin 2012, p. 173). Constantin thus began a purge of all perceived copyright violators, demanding YouTube remove the parodies, and per Google policy, these actions were taken without debate or reprieve. Gilbert (2013) notes that “Two days after Constantin’s initiative began, at least 68 versions remained on YouTube and others were posted to sister sites” (p. 419). A protest video from user hitlerrantsparodies was uploaded not long after and featured the copyright message sent by Constantin with angry subtitles criticizing the company’s tact. “Six months later, the same user posted on a ‘‘Downfall Parodies Forum’’: ‘‘It seems Constantin Film may now be finally allowing parodies on YouTube, they are now placing ads on some of my parodies instead of blocking them.’’ Constantin, it seems, had given up its witch-hunt” (p. 419).

These videos were actually restored to YouTube not when the witch-hunt ended, but when Constantin understood a choice could be made to monetize these parody efforts: “As far as we can ascertain, most of videos which were made inaccessible in April 2010 have since been restored to YouTube, with added advertising – Constantin Film changed their strategy from blocking to monetising and tracking.” (da Silva and Garcia 2012, p. 90-91). The most popular Downfall video, “Hitler Gets Banned from XBox Live,” was taken down after Constantin Films received a complaint from Microsoft (da Silva & Garcia, 2012, p. 91), demonstrating how complicated copyright complaints can be on YouTube. “By embedding a machine readable licence into their content, Constantin films could make it clear how their content can be used, the terms of attribution, how they are willing to share advertising revenues which accrue from reuse of their content in mashups, and any other terms they wish to attach” (Thomas and Pan, 2010, p. 2). Any video that breaks these rules can be instantly ferreted and removed per an agreement with YouTube and other content aggregators, all while “valid reused content” can be exploited for revenues by the copyright holders, namely Constantin FIlms.

What do the actions of Constantin Films and other studio content creators inform scholars regarding remixes from film? Gregory joins the scholarly chorus warning us “the witch-hunt that should give us pause” (p. 419) as James Boyle, Lawrence Lessig, Kembrew McLeod, among others have shown the danger of “Big Media’s” protective policies dictating ownership and authenticity. Most interestingly considering the Downfall example is that many YouTubers (users active in the YouTube community) held YouTube in contempt for betraying them to Big Media. Posted defiantly on YouTube, “Hitler reacts to the Hitler parodies being removed from YouTube” places heavy criticism on the film studio, on YouTube’s acceptance of the copyright claim, and on the subsequent automatic take-down” (da Silva and Garcia, 2012, 100-1).


While YouTube has a negotiated relationship with copyright holders of video remixes, little attention has been paid to the creators and viewers of these remixes and their consideration of copyright issues. It is unclear how large of a concern these issues are for individual creators and viewers is at all. Until the gap in scholarship is filled, the hurt feelings and angry responses from users like DReaperF4 and hitlerrantsparodies are likely to continue.


da Silva, P.D. & Garcia, J.L. (2012). YouTubers as satirists: Humour and remix in online video. Journal of e-Democracy, 4, 89-114.

Downfall/Hitler reacts. (2013). Know Your Meme. Retrieved from

DReaperF4. (2006). Sim Heil. (English version). YouTomb. Retrieved from

Gilbert, C. J. (12/2013).  Playing With Hitler: and Its Ludic Uptake. Critical studies in media communication. ,  30 (5), p. 407 – 424.

Klang, M., & Nolin, J. (2012). Tolerance is Law: Remixing Homage Parodying Plagiarism. ScriptED9(2).

Plankhead. (2010). Hitler reacts to the Hitler parodies being removed from YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved from

Thomas, E., & Pan, J. Z. (2010). Semantic Advertising Using Linked and Embedded Metadata. Proceedings of Digital Futures ’10, October 11-12, 2010.  Retrieved from

Digital Games as the Intertextual Medium

“Intertextuality” is a term coined by Julia Kristeva (1967) to describe the ways texts relate to and reference other texts, through devices such as allusion, quotation, pastiche, and parody. While somewhat contentious among scholars, intertextuality attempts to capture a nebulous concept that a number of authors including Barthes (2001) and Bakhtin (1934) have given various names and definitions. Kristeva’s definition considers that in reading a text, knowledge is not simply transferred from author to reader, but its significance is instead interpreted through the lens of reader experience and cultural codes developed from other texts. Text can appear in multiple iterations, as written words, or even as representations of such in a physical article such as clothes, hair, or architecture. In digital games, not only does text appear onscreen in narrative and descriptive forms, but every bit of scenery, character appearance, and diagetic sound could be considered text. As discussed by Wolf (2001), digital games draw upon divergent texts and provide an interactive environment for users to read these texts.

Consalvo (2003) defines intertextuality in digital games as a “sophisticated understanding of the ‘text’ and its place in the greater media marketplace” (p. 327). These texts often originate in other media, in cinema, literature, television, the Internet, and from any number of users and producers. Digital games operate completely within a world fabricated from these texts, making digital games far more intertextual that other media such as print, radio, television, and film. I argue intertextuality is the keystone on which digital games are built. Gamers, who operate in this environment and manipulate this intertextual world, are thus more easily encouraged to participate in participatory and remix culture, itself a highly intertextual context. Gamers, who formulate their identity in this intertextual and interactive world, are themselves remixed creatures. Gamers share information, communicate, and connect with others through shared experiences in participatory and remix culture. For an example of this, one has to look no father than the link below:

Heralded indie game creations the Boy and Tim (from the games Limbo and Braid respectively) immediately evoke the indie aesthetic, which of course is not simply a digital games invention. The indie aesthetic referenced here is a notion of networked meaning, drawn from a number of sources in pop culture that is intertextually recognized in these disparate forms. Tim and the Boy are positioned as hipsters, their independence from standard digital game conventions and narratives acts as point of pride and differentiation from the more commercial properties Mario represents. Mario, as Nintendo’s flagship icon, has been the definitive measure for an entire genre of adventure and platform games. It could certainly be argued that the term “platform game” owes its origins to Super Mario Bros, where much of the game is spent jumping from platform to platform to moving platform. In addition, as a commercial success and a flag bearer for gaming as a general leisure activity, his position as a non-controversial, spunky everyman positions him as a target of the indie aesthetic scorn.

While it’s true that gamers read the video’s Parappa the Rapper posters in the background and the Pacman ghosts in the next booth immediately as referents to digital gaming, the greater network of meaning comes not only from these clever nods to gaming. The decor of the bar harkens to any number of literary and cinematic locales, from the Spouter Inn to Kavanagh’s Irish Pub. These influences are easily identifiable, but what should be understood is that “Mario is Too Mainstream” does not reside in a cultural vacuum. These references instead marinate in the cultural experience of all those who read this text.

As a result most viewers will recognize the very same nerd-heavy arguments Tim and Mario had as much as they from their own pub crawling experience as they might from Woody’s L. Street Tavern in South Boston. Both are instances are part of the shared cultural experiences readers have. In that shared experience, the various meanings are traded and understood, possibly tying the cinematic to empiric.


Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination.  Austin, TX: U of Texas P.

Barthes, R. (1977). The death of the author. Image / Music / Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 142-7.

Barthes, R. (1977). Barthes, Roland. The death of the author. Image / Music / Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 142-7.

Consalvo, M. (2003). Zelda 64 and Video Game Fans A Walkthrough of Games, Intertextuality, and Narrative. Television & New Media4(3), 321-334.

Kristeva, K. (1967). Bakhtine, le mot, le dialogue et le roman. Critique. 33 (239), 438–465.

Wolf, M. J. P. (Eds.) (2001) The medium of the video game. Austin : University of Texas Press.


The Post-Postmodern Rap God

Few modern musicians can match careers with rapper Eminem. His 115 million albums sold puts him in select company commercially, ahead of legendary acts such as Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, and Prince (Billboard, 2013). Not only was he the highest-selling artist of the new millennium, but industry tracker Billboard named Eminem their “Artist of the Decade” for the 2000s (Press Association, 2013). Rolling Stone has featured his visage on their cover more than a half dozen times, and has even crowned him the King of Hip Hop (Molanphy, 2011) and as one of their “100 Immortals” (Rolling Stone, 2003). His backstory about growing up poor in Detroit and with an absent father has achieved such renown, no less than Hollywood luminaries Brian Grazer and Curtis Hanson have printed it for posterity in celluloid in the acclaimed 8 Mile. Eminem even became the first hip hop artist to ever win an Oscar the song “Lose Yourself” from the film (The 75th Academy Awards, 2003).


His latest release, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, (released in November 2013), has garnered similar acclaim from the music critic literati. But amongst the claims of “virtuoso application of talent” (MacInnes, 2013), “wittily nihilistic” (Farber, 2013), and “burns with purpose” (Wood, 2013) an interesting critique runs throughout the number of reviews which harkens to notions of postmodernity in a postmodern age.

For example, Christopher Weingarten of Spin writes:

Instead, Eminem is mostly making his version of John Lennon’s Rock ‘N’ Roll, or Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man or U2’s Rattle and Hum or the Beastie Boys’ Hello Nasty: one of the biggest artists in the world indulging an elaborate revisionist fantasy where he gets to goof around in the era right before he started making music. In his case, it’s rap’s Golden Era, andMMLP2 co-executive producer Rick Rubin brings an arsenal of the type of glue-sniffer rock riffs that peeled the sod off suburban lawns in the Beastie Boys’ 1986 (Joe Walsh, Billy Squier), not to mention the type of Cold Lava Lampin’ acid-rock kitsch that lured us into 1989’s D.A.I.S.Y. Age (the Zombies, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders). (Weingarten, 2013)

If we consider “All this is to say that a persuasive model of postmodernism requires a constellation of particular styles, features, attitudes, placed in a particular historical context” (Hassan), then what to make of this particular narrative surrounding Eminem’s “elaborate revisionist fantasy?”

From the opening ghetto blaster, to the insertion of the old school mix tape, the video strikes a definitive historical cord. This would seem to imply the model of postmodernism Hassan details above. But while the video harkens to a bygone era, it’s impossible not to note the images of “rap’s Golden Era,” one in which Eminem was not a part of. Bassil (2013) suggests Eminem has undertaken this revisionist track in order to reposition himself in today’s postmodern era.

Eminem realises he has to find a new foothold, perhaps moving back toward the rock infused rap world. In the early 00s, Eminem’s face was plastered across black hoodies with the same frequency as the Slipknot or Korn logo. Alongside Fred Durst, Eminem helped bring rap music to a new audience. It’s not a coincidence that this year he headlined Reading Festival, and weeks later, released the Beastie Boy’s homage “Bezerk”. The track was produced by Rick Rubin, and alongside its “So What Cha Want” inspired video, cemented Eminem’s intention as returning back to heavier driven rap music. If Slim Shady isn’t working any more, maybe he’s going back to another style that did. (Bassil, 2013)

Jameson notes that nostalgia is a “particular practice of pastiche is not high-cultural but very much within mass culture, and it is generally known as the “nostalgia film” (what the French neatly call la mode rétro – retrospective styling)” (Jameson, 1988, p. 18). So in effect, Eminem is reinventing himself through the lens of nostalgia, placing himself in a prior context with a post-postmodern interpretation. He achieves the post-postmodern perspective.

By harkening back to “rap’s Golden Era” and inserting himself into it all while subverting that text by alluding to his own personal history post-Slim Shady, Eminem is performing an interesting exercise in resurrection. Where once Eminem was the edgiest and most wickedly sardonic rapper around, it seems as if every modern musician plays with the margins for controversy. Bassil suggests “Eminem, like JAY Z, is cashing in on his former success and opting to move toward a comfortable commercial audience” (Bassil, 2013). On the track “Rap God,” his second release from the The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem raps:

You get too big and here they come trying to censor you like that one line
I said on “I’m Back” from the Mathers LP one when I tried to say
“I’ll take seven kids from Columbine
Put ’em all in a line, add an AK-47, a revolver and a nine”
See if I get away with it now that I ain’t as big as I was but I’m

This line is particularly revealing in the post-postmodern projection of Eminem, as he mocks not only his current stature as an aging hip-hop star with less commercial appeal, but the notion of how controversial he was and now, is. He could rest on his laurels, he truly has nothing to prove; but Marshall Mathers has always thrived on his insecurity, that’s what differentiates this persona from the bombastic Eminem and the disturbed Slim Shady. The Marshall Mathers persona has always been the personal and introspective of these personalties, after all, it’s the one who’s over 40 with a daughter in high school. It is this awareness that allows Eminem to perform this post-postmodernist critique, exploiting his past as Slim Shady, with lyrical wizardry and wicked humor, while at the same time, subverting the text in these nostalgic contexts.


Bassil, R. (2013). A textual analysis of Marshall Mathers’s Predicament. Noisey. Retrieved from

Billboard. (2009 Dec 7). Best of the 2000s: The Decade In Charts and More. Billboard. Retrieved from

Dolan, J. (2013 Nov 3). Eminem ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ Review. Rolling Stone.

Farber, J. (2013, Oct 30). ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’: album review. New York Daily News.

Hassan, I. (1987). From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context. From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Jameson, F. (1988). Postmodernism and Consumer Society. In E. Ann Kaplan, ed. Postmodernism and its Discontents (pp. 13-29). London and New York: Verso.

MacInnes, P. (2013, Nov 8). Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP 2 – review. The Guardian.

Molanphy, C. (2011, Aug 15). Introducing the King of Hip-Hop. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from

Press Association. (2013, Jan 18). Eminem to headline new Glasgow Summer Sessions festival. The Courier. Retrieved from

Rolling Stone, (2005). “The Immortals: Rolling Stone.” Rolling Stone. Retrieved from

The 75th Academy Awards, (2003). Nominees and Winners. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved

Weingarten, C. R. Eminem, (2013, Nov 3). ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ Review.

The Multiplicity of YouTube

Defining YouTube has been problematic for scholars, resulting in a variety of contexts in which academics write about the website. Is YouTube a “platform, an archive, a library, a laboratory, a medium” (Snickers & Vonderau, 2009)? Is it a “complex parasitical media” (Mitchem, 2008) or rather “networked individualism” (Haythornthwaite & Wellman, 2002)? Some see YouTube as a digital bard (Hartley, 2009), storyteller (Ryan, 2006), or a modern day myth-maker (Mosco, 2005). Yet, there seems to be a troubling trend in research which confines YouTube into a box that can be easily consumed and considered. Limiting discussion of YouTube to inclusions of Web 2.0 or a singular point of remix or participatory culture is a deleterious endeavor.

The history of YouTube is well documented and oft-cited. Founded by former employees of web-based financial PayPal, Chad Harley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim officially launched YouTube with little to no fanfare in June 2005. “The website provided a very simple, integrated interface without high levels of technological knowledge, and within the technological constraints of standard browser software relatively modest bandwidth” (Burgess & Green, 2009, p. 1). There were a number of other video and file-sharing websites competing at that time, but as Burgess and Green suggest, the simplicity of YouTube’s design and its relative ease of use made it stand out in an otherwise crowded field. A number of scholars have argued that this openness has ultimately fed YouTube’s success, a “hybrid model of engagement” driven by consumer-citizens experiencing the site in a variety of ways. “From an audience point of view, is it a platform that provides access to culture, on a platform that enables consumers to participate as producers?” (Burgess & Green, 2009, p. 14). Kavoori (2011) adds “I suggest that we see YouTube as much more than a website – it is a key element in the way we think about our online experience and (shared) digital culture” (p. 3).

In an interview, Jawid Karim attributed the early success of YouTube to four essential properties: video recommendations via the ‘related videos’ list, an email link to enable video sharing, comments (and other social networking functionality), and an embeddable video player (Gannes, 2006). YouTube then becomes the logical destination for many users and their expressions of remix culture.

Fagerjord (2010) calls YouTube a remix in itself: “You might call the site a clever remix of a video gallery, a blog-like commenting system, a system of friends and connections as in a social network site such as LinkedIn and a file-sharing site or network” (p. 195). But Halbert (2009) argues that video remixes constitute a different logic than that of commercial production, whereby professionals create artistic content that is then distributed to the masses. The logic of remix, Halbert argues, does not rely on the motive of profit, but of cultural circulation and provides an alternative to the commercial model, “By using the term “user-generated content,” the structure of the narrative implicitly undermines the value that can be placed on the original work of “users” and implies that professional contributions are somehow superior” (p. 929). Video remix, then, constitutes the creation of original creative content using commercial sources in a way that often undermines or speaks back to the original source. Rather than seeing remixed videos as derivative entertainment, some scholars argue that these products stand as creative works in their own right.

The mash-up above is archetypal YouTube music remix, subverting the previous text, that is The Cosby Show, with its wholesome Huxtables and jazz loving obstetrician, and inserting the salaciousness of the hit of Summer 2013, the sexually charged and overtly over-the-top “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. The remixed text then reads as a deft reordering, the dancing family sniffs of puerile impropriety all while Bill Cosby shimmies with a sly wink and a nod. A battle of the mind commences, was 80’s television so vapid or was the quintessential sitcom really so naughty?

The result of such interplay between consumers and consumers as producers or “produsers” to borrow the term from Bruns (2009) position YouTube as a curator of remix culture, especially interesting when one considers YouTube’s original byline of “Your Digital Video Repository” as opposed to the current iteration, “Broadcast Yourself.” Castells (2000) writes “We live in a new economy, characterized by three fundamental features”: informational, global, and networked. With this understanding, we can view YouTube through a particular lens, as a network of global citizens and individuals sharing and creating new cultural products, all while experiencing and using YouTube in vastly different ways and for vastly different purposes. In the end, there are really multiple YouTubes, as each visitor experiences the site in different ways, i.e. some may use the site for subscription, instantly clicking to their favorite channels, while others use the site as a cultural aggregator, “scanning and sorting through a magazine catalog: when one is flipping through a magazine catalog, the stories, advertisments and images are skimmed through, with attention resting briefly on one or more items” (Kavoori, 2011, p. 8).


Bruns, A. (2006) ‘Towards Produsage: Futures for User-led Content Production’, in F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds) Proceedings: Cultural Attitudes towards Communication and Technology 2006, pp. 275–84. Perth: Murdoch University.

Burgess, J. & Green, J. (2009). YouTube: Online video and participatory culture. Polity, Malden, MA.

Castells, M. (2000, January/March) “Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society,” British Journal of Sociology, 51/1, 5–24.

Fagerjord, Anders. (2010). After convergence: YouTube and remix culture. In J. Hunsinger et al., (Eds.), International handbook of internet research (pp. 187-200), Springer.

Gannes, L. (2009). YouTube changes everything: The online video revolution. In Television Goes Digital (pp. 147-155). Springer New York.

Halbert, D. (2009). Mass culture and the culture of the masses: A manifesto for user-generated rights. Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, 11, 921-961.

Haythornthwaite, C., & Wellman, H. (2002). The Internet in everyday life: An introduction. The Internet in everyday life, 1-41.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York, NYU Press, 2008.

Lessig, Lawrence. (2008). Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. New York: Penguin.

Mitchem, M. (2008). Video social: Complex parasitical media. In G. Lovink & S. Niederer (Eds.), Video vortex reader:  Responses to YouTube (pp. 273-282). Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Snickers, P., & Vonderau, P. (2009). The YouTube Reader. Stockholm: National Library of Sweden.