Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Otto Frank as Co-Author of Anne's Diary: Issues of Copyright and Authorship

             On November 13, The New York Times released an article that announced that the copyright on “The Diary of Anne Frank” would be extended for another seventy years. Initially set to expire on January 1st in many parts of Europe, the diary’s copyright was extended after Anne’s father Otto Frank was designated co-author for his editorial contributions. The Swiss foundation that owns the copyright declared that this entitled an extension of copyright. Otto Frank died in 1980, so the copyright is set to end in 2050. You can read more about it here:

            The situation is also complicated by the fact that Anne’s legacy is managed by several different parties. This includes the Anne Frank House museum in the Netherlands and the Swiss-based Anne Frank Fonds. For the last five years, the Anne Frank House had been working with historians and researchers to publish a web-based version of the diary once it came under public domain. However, these efforts will not immediately launch as a result of these proceedings. Following the war, Mr. Frank dispersed much of Anne’s tangible legacy to various institutions, which makes the matter more complicated. We’ve seen this time and again in issues of ownership and copyright when things are donated to archival institutions.

            It is also a basic issue of creator and provenance. The Anne Frank House museum issued a statement and countered that Anne is the sole author of her diary.[1] However, an extension of the copyright will limit Anne’s legacy rather than further it, which seems counter to what the Anne Frank Fonds wants to accomplish. The stewards of the Anne Frank Museum, as part of their mission, hope to “disseminate” the life of Anne as widely as possible. This recent development hinders in some ways their ability to achieve their mission. It will be interesting to see how the story plays out and how the archival institution within the House museum fights to demand that the copyright enter into the public domain.


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