January 19, 2016
“Long live Anne Frank, long live the public domain”
by Taylor Sperry
In November we wrote about the controversy regarding Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, which, while indisputably protected by copyright in the United States until at least 2047, might be in the public domain in Europe as of . . . now.
Alison Flood reports for The Guardian that on January 1st of this year, University of Nantes lecturer Olivier Ertzscheid and French MP Isabelle Attard separately published Frank’s memoir online, where the text has since been viewed more than 50,000 times:
“[Ertzschied and Attard] argue that because 70 years have elapsed since Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, and because across much of Europe copyright expires 70 years after an author’s death, the work has now entered the public domain.”
Anne Frank Fonds, the organization founded by Anne’s father, Otto Frank, insists that Otto’s substantial editorial involvement and the subsequent revisions by Mirjam Pressler are sufficient to extend the copyright based on the deaths of Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler, instead of on Anne Frank’s death in 1945. They sent cease and desist letters to Ertzscheid and Attard in December and have threatened legal action.
Both Ertzscheid and Attard have been pretty grandiose in their rationale for making Anne Frank’s diary available to the public for free. On her website, Attard wrote:
“Long live Anne Frank, long live the public domain . . . we can, as Olivier Ertzcheid said, collectively ‘after these years of the cellar, of darkness, this darkness which weighs so heavily in your diary, dear Anne Frank, have the intelligence to offer you at last the light which you deserve, that which your diary deserves, that of the public space. Welcome to the light, dear Anne.’”
Anne Frank Fonds released a statement last week maintaining their position.
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.