Anne Frank publishers locked in copyright battle

November 23rd, 2015

This co-authorship idea is strongly contested, and has not yet been established in court.

Annemarie Bekker, spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Stichting, which runs the massively popular Anne Frank House and its archives, protested: “Is Otto Frank co-author of the diary of Anne Frank? No, Anne Frank is the sole author of the diary versions A and B [her own, edited version], and the short stories. There is no co-author in these writings, not Otto Frank or any other person.

“Otto Frank is the curator of the commercial edition of the diary published in 1947. For this edition, Otto Frank drew on his daughter’s first and rewritten version, but they are and remain exclusively Anne’s diary entries and short stories.”

Her organisation has spent five years preparing “an elaborate web version of the diary intended for publication once the copyright expires” – adding that this “will always take place within the framework of the law”.

Meanwhile in France, academics, lawyers and a politician are also mounting a challenge, believing that such important historical documents should be openly accessible. French politician Isabel Attard pledges to publish the diary material online on January 1 2016 on her website.

“According to his own account, Otto Frank did not write this book with her daughter,” she wrote. “He was given it when he returned from the camp … Can censoring passages of an existing book be regarded as the creation of a new work? It is up to a judge to decide.”

Olivier Ertzscheid, a lecturer at the University of Nantes, decided to post the diary on his blog to alert the public to the issue this month but withdrew it after a warning letter from a French publisher.

“On January 1, we will publish the original document in Dutch online, and we are also working on a new translation,” he said. “I am not against authors’ rights, but the endless extension of these. In my opinion, suppressing passages does not make you a co-author.”

Yves Kugelmann, spokesman for the Anne Frank Fonds, said: “I understand that people in general think that every copy will be in the public domain after 70 years, but you have to check which rights are applicable in each territory.

“Legally speaking, he [Otto Frank] is co-author of his own book, and this will be protected until 2050.”

He added that the father’s edition has, in any case, been superseded by a 1991 edition which the body claims is in copyright for even longer. The foundation says it uses funds raised to support charities such as UNICEF.

The unauthorised versions next year will have company. Sources say that Cambridge University Press – in collaboration with the Anne Frank Fonds – is preparing a new, academic version of Anne Frank’s two versions of her own diary.


World War Two

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