Copyright row over Anne Frank diary to heat up 'unauthorized' publication

The Foundation says that Otto Frank, who founded the Anne Frank Foundation, is one of the creators of the diary, a claim that if true would allow for a copyright extension of 35 years.

December 31, 2015 22:12
3 minute read.
Anne Frank

Anne Frank.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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The battle over just who owns the right to publish The Diary of Anne Frank, the wartime memoir of a Jewish teen hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during the World War II, is heating up, with the foundation that currently holds the copyright threatening legal action against several people promising to put out editions independently.

Copyright reform advocates and Holocaust historians have been up in arms after the Switzerland-based Anne Frank Foundation sent publishers a letter earlier this year asserting that its copyright ownership will not expire on the 70th anniversary of the young Frank’s death as expected, as her father – who never claimed authorship during his lifetime – was a co-author.

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The foundation now says that Otto Frank, who founded the organization and died in 1980, is one of the creators of the work, a claim that if true would allow for an extension of 35 years.

According to critics, the copyright expires on January 1 and several people, including French legislator Isabelle Attard, have stated their intention to publish copies without the foundation’s permission once the new year rolls around.

Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, Holocaust historian and author of Denying the Holocaust, told The Jerusalem Post last month: “I think it is a misguided move."

“To suggest that her father was her co-author, even if it is only for copyright purposes, is not wise. In years to come it might well be used to raise questions about the authenticity of the diary.”

Cory Doctorow, copyright reform advocate and author, raised the same concerns.


Writing on the website Boing-Boing, Doctorow asserted that beyond the issue of assigning authorship rights to editors like Otto Frank as well, as the negative repercussions for living authors today, the move to posthumously assign Anne’s father a role in the diary’s creation undermines the authenticity of the document itself.

“By claiming that Otto Frank is co-author... of his daughter’s diaries, the foundation is arguing that the diaries don’t represent Anne’s views and thoughts, but rather, that they have been intentionally distorted by her father to the point where they can no longer be said to be a faithful rendition of her diaries,” he wrote in an article titled “Copyfraud.”

In a statement published on its website on Tuesday, the foundation cited a decision by a civil court in Amsterdam, which ruled, “Copying or publishing Anne Frank’s original manuscripts after 2015 constitutes an infringement of copyrights that belong to the Swiss Anne Frank Fonds.”

“Under general copyright law, the rights to her works would expire on 1 January 2016, 70 years after her death. However, as the Anne Frank Fonds [Foundation] has explained before, exceptions to this law apply to Anne Frank’s diary,” the group stated.

In the early 1990s a revised and expanded version of the diary was published. The editor of that work handed over her copyright to the foundation, which claims, “The manuscripts will therefore remain protected until 1 January 2037.”

“The court’s decision confirms that the Anne Frank Fonds is effectively the custodian of the work and memory of Anne and the family Frank. The Foundation aims to safeguard, together with its partners, that the diary is published authentically all over the world,” the foundation said in a statement.

It continued, “As instructed by its founder, Otto Frank, the Fonds will keep supporting scholarly work, education and charity. This is another ruling that directly sustains and honors the legacy of the family Frank, and respects the wish of Otto Frank for the Anne Frank Fonds to decide on any publication of the diary.”

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