Anne Frank’s Diary: Will 2016 see its release in to the public domain?

Posted on: November 26th, 2015

January 1st 2016 marks 70 years since the death of one of the world’s most famous diarists, Anne Frank.

Her diary has been bought, read, and enjoyed by millions of people the world over and is famous for its youthful depiction of a horrific time in world history.

The rights to publication of the diary are, however, about to become the subject of intense legal interest and debate as not only does 2016 mark 70 years since Anne Frank’s death but also, some argue, the end of the copyright protection over her famous work.

Copyrights in Europe generally end 70 years after an author’s death, however there is disagreement as to who the author of Anne Frank’s diary is.

The Anne Frank Foundation in Switzerland have extended the diaries copyright by arguing that Otto Frank, her father, was a co-author. This means copyright protection extends 70 years after his death, and not Anne’s. If their argument is upheld, this extends the protection of copyright until the end of 2050 and restricts its entry into the public domain.

Although the diary was written between 12 June 1942 and 1 August 1944, it was not published until 1947 and was done so by Otto Frank. The Anne Frank Foundation claim that Otto’s involvement in publishing the work was more than just editing, including enough changes to the original to classify him as co-author.  

For French MP Isabelle Attard, extending the copyright is not acceptable; “Many revisionists, people who want to deny the extermination camps existed, have tried to attack the diary for years. Saying now the book wasn’t written by Anne alone is weakening the weight it has had for decades, as a testimony to the horrors of war.”

Because of the importance that the diary holds to Isabelle Attard and many others there are numerous plans to release free versions online once 1st January 2016 comes around. If this happens, it will then be up to The Anne Frank Foundation to request that the publications be taken down and challenge authors in court if they refuse to do so. As such we will have to wait until 2016 to see which side the law falls on. Until versions are published for free and a challenge is made by The Anne Frank Foundation against them, the law will not have a chance to determine where copyright protection stands.