Breaking News:  The Diary of Anne Frank was Also Written by Her Father (or so they say)!

Most of us are familiar with the Diary of Anne Frank in which a 13 year old girl writes in her own words about Nazi occupation and coming of age under the unimaginable circumstances of hiding under Nazi occupation. Anne Frank perished 70 years ago in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp but her words survived thanks to her father, Otto Frank, the only surviving family member, who published Anne’s diary in 1952, explaining in the book’s prologue that the diary contained the words of his daughter.

Now, the New York Times reports that Anne Frank’s diary has a new and previously undisclosed co-author, Otto Frank. How can that be? The Swiss foundation that owns the copyright to The Diary of Anne Frank is on record of stating that Anne’s father is not only the editor but also the co-author of the diary, warning that others who were waiting for the copyright to expire will be sorely disappointed. Why would the foundation do that?

Copyrights in Europe expire 70 years after the death of the author, which means that the diary’s copyright, if Anne were the only author, is on the cusp of its expiration date. (Not so in the United States when it would expire in 2047, 95 years after the first publication of the book.) Expiration of the copyright would have important financial implications for the Anne Frank Foundation, which distributes proceeds from the book to various charities. Should the diary become public domain, the Foundation would lose all control over the work and royalties would cease.

According to the New York Times, announcement of the new co-author “provoked a furor” among stakeholders of Anne Frank’s legacy, in particular the Anne Frank House Museum in Amsterdam, and people who want to publish the diary without royalty restrictions. Some threatened to publish the work even if the Anne Frank foundation carried through with its intentions. One interesting aspect of the furor is that announcement of a new co-author might jeopardize the book’s copyright on grounds that the Anne Frank foundation lied for years about Anne Frank being the sole author of her diary.

In another interesting twist, the New York Times believes that if the copyright remains with the Anne Frank Foundation, its copyright might extend even beyond 2050, 70 years after Otto Frank’s death. That is because

A second editor, Mirjam Pressler, revised, edited and added 25 percent more material from Anne Frank’s diary for what was called a “definitive edition” in 1991. She qualified for a copyright for her creative work, and the rights were transferred to the foundation, said its lawyer, Kamiel Koelman.

She is still living, he added, giving them copyright ownership from the date of her future death for at least another 70 years.

The quest to extend copyright protection is not new. See our previous article about how corporations have managed to do this in the United States through the legislative process.

Photo credit: “AnneFrank dHont” by brbbl – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

— Adam G. Garson, Esq.