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Hitler Footage Meme as Attorney Advertising: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

One of the great things about this new job of mine here at Legal Blog Watch is that it has turned me into the poster child for the old saying, "You learn something new every day." Or at least the days Bruce isn't the one doing the learning.

I came across this post on Bob Battle's Virginia DUI Lawyer blog, describing and embedding a "hilarious video showing Hitler establishing DUI roadblocks," and giving credit for the video to Seattle DUI defense attorneys at the Cowan Kirk Gaston firm. Here's the video:


Watching the video, I had a few thoughts. Was it really "hilarious?" Is it crossing a line of some kind for a law firm to analogize the police setting up DUI roadblocks to Nazism? Could the video be effective in generating business (like the "My name is David. I'm here to help you" videos)? And, yes, did these lawyers really go out and spend money to hire actors to film this thing?

See, I don't speak a lick of German and have apparently been living under a rock for the past several years. The video begins with opening credits naming one of the DUI attorneys as producer and another as director. But the footage is actually a scene from "Der Untergang (The Downfall)," a 2004 German movie that was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. Taking this scene, or others from the movie, and adding funny subtitles is something the cool kids have been doing for years. How did I miss this? Even The New York Times knew about it. The topics to which the Hitler rant has been adapted run the gamut from college football to inability to find Waldo to being banned from playing Xbox Live. There's even a Hitler rant video about the popularity of Hitler rant videos.

So, the answer to my question about the lawyers going out and hiring actors to make their video is "No, you moron." This still leaves the issue of whether it's an appropriate lawyer advertisement. It doesn't seem to violate any of the Washington rules on lawyer advertising, but as we all know, just because something may not be illegal does not make it a good idea.

What about copyright issues? Though it has been reported that some of the videos have been taken down because of infringement claims, the director of the original film thinks its use as an Internet meme is not only fair, but fitting.

My lesson for the day: I need to spend more time playing around on the Internet.

Posted by Eric Lipman on February 19, 2010 at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)


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