Diary of Anne Frank Subject To Copyright Dispute

A legal case involving the Diary of Anne Frank may affect many other publications, even including genealogy books published in the United States and many other countries.

Anne Frank was a Jewish teenager killed by the Nazis whose writing survived in the Amsterdam building where she had hidden. 70 years have passed since her death. As the author, she owned the copyrights. After her death, the copyrights are legally passed on her heirs. In this case, Anne Frank’s heirs were her parents and, later, other relatives who would inherit the property and the rights of the parents. Under European laws, any book published at that time becomes public domain 70 years after publication.

A French academic has made the Diary of Anne Frank available online with profits going to charity. However, the Anne Frank Fonds, the foundation established by Anne’s father Otto Frank, claims that: “Otto Frank and children’s author and translator, Mirjam Pressler, were inter alia responsible for the various edited versions of fragments of the diary” in 1947 and 1991. They add: “the copyrights to these adaptations have been vested in Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler, who in effect created readable books from Anne Frank’s original writings.” In other words, the book should not be considered to be in the public domain today.

European laws obviously are not the same as U.S. laws or the laws of other countries. However, the various nations often agree with each other and enforce each other’s copyright laws. If one country changes its copyright laws, other nations often enact similar legislation within a few years.

The present case involving the Diary of Anne Frank is described in an article by Alison Flood in The Guardian at http://goo.gl/BxLQmI.


You are referring to the book that was published posthumously with excerpts from Anne Frank’s personal diary. The correct title of this book is “The Diary of A Young Girl.” [No quotes; use italics.] After Otto Frank survived the Semitic Holocaust, then returned home, his former employees at his spice business presented Mr. Frank with Anne’s
diary. Miep discovered the diary tucked away in the “Secret Annex,” as Anne called it. Much later, Miep published her account of the four Franks’ life in hiding, with four other adults. After some time Mr. Frank read the diary then decided which excerpts would be included in the first publication. Shortly after this, Otto Frank remarried. Later, Mr. Frank agreed to publish Anne’s short stories: “Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex.” In later years Otto Frank published his version of life as a Jew in Nazi territory. Some time later, a former friend of Anne’s wrote about their childhood days together.
If anyone might have rights to the original book of Anne’s diary, it may be the second Mrs. Frank.


As I understand it, there is no question of changing copyright law. The issue is exactly who is the author of what, and what are the implications for copyright of the original diary and the published edition / editions.


    In terms of the original diary she wrote, it’s out of copyright and that would include any excerpted works from the original diary used in a later work by her father or Pressler. Any unique pieces of their personal work would be covered by copyright until it expires. Where it gets interesting is outside of the EU and worth a read if anybody is so inclined since an item can be within copyright protection in one country, but out of copyright in another country. That’s not to say a later reprint can be used without facing legal issues and before attempting to use something that may be out of copyright in your country, best to consult a copyright expert to see what you can and cannot do. Expect this will become a drawn-out court case where the lawyers make most of the money and the copyright for her original diary is ruled as being over. Disclaimer: I am not a copyright lawyer, but have extensively studied copyright for six years in case I decide to post stuff online.


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