Somebody combined the Village People's hit song, "YMCA," with footage of a dancing Adolf Hitler and posted the clip to YouTube. Now the company that owns the rights to the band's music is preparing to sue YouTube.
John Giacobbi, president of Web Sheriff, which hunts down pirated material on the Web and tries to get it removed, said his company has sent 500 "take-down" notices to YouTube. Each time the video is pulled, someone else uploads another copy. Giacobbi believes that YouTube has the ability to screen for copyright content in the same way it does for pornography.
The Hitler video is edited to make it look like he and other well-known Nazis are singing and dancing to "YMCA," the Village People's biggest hit. What's more aggravating for Giacobbi and the group is that copycat videos have begun cropping up. Many show the same footage but are combined with other songs by the group, a '70s disco band whose members dressed in costume.
"It's highly inappropriate," Giacobbi said. "Consider that the song's composers were both Jewish. It's not funny. It's stupid and hurtful."
Web Sheriff, headquartered in Great Britain, made news on Thursday for announcing that the company is preparing to launch civil litigation against YouTube, eBay and the Pirate Bay on behalf of rock performer Prince. In that case, Prince is accusing the companies of encouraging people to commit copyright violations.
YouTube said Thursday in response to Prince's criticism that the company enjoys excellent relations with copyright owners.
"Most content owners understand that we respect copyrights," said Zahavah Levine, YouTube's chief counsel in an e-mail. "We work every day to help them manage their content, and we are developing state-of-the-art tools to let them do that even better."
This is the month that YouTube representatives said the company would roll out a new filtering system, which would block copyright material from showing up on the site. An attorney representing YouTube in an unrelated copyright lawsuit brought against it earlier this year by Viacom, told a judge recently that the system was due around September.
Representatives from Can't Stop Productions, the company that owns the rights to the Village People's music, could not be reached for comment.