Can editors of books be considered legal authors, many critics are asking the foundation which holds the copyright to “The Diary of Anne Frank” after the Swiss organization alerted publishers that Anne’s father, previously credited as an editor, is now to be considered an author of the book.
Rather than January 1 — 70 years after the death of Anne Frank — the book’s copyright will extend into 2050, 70 years after the death of Anne’s father Otto Frank, according to European copyright law.
The copyright prevents the publication of the book except with permission of Anne Frank Fonds and, usually, the payment of royalties.
The foundation was set up with the help of Otto Frank to manage the revenue generated by the sales of Anne’s diary. From the proceeds, approximately $1.5 million is distributed annually to Unicef and various children’s aid projects.
The foundation consulted copyright lawyers six years ago, and they concluded that Otto Frank had “created a new work” by rearranging the parts of the diary into a “kind of collage.”
What we read when we hold a copy of “The Diary of Anne Frank” is referred to as the “C version” of the book. It is the version created from the “A” and “B” versions. The “A version” was Anne’s original handwritten diary. The “B version” was a rewrite she composed from 1944.
Another version, called the “definitive version” — created by rearranging, editing, and adding unpublished parts of the original diary — was published by another editor in 1991. This version qualified for copyright, and the copyright was transferred to Anne Frank Fonds, although the editor is still living, according to the lawyer of the foundation.
Many are criticizing what have been referred to as “elastic copyright laws.” Unauthorized copies of the book have already been published online.
The New York Times reported that a Nantes university lecturer has also begun circulating an online copy in protest, although he removed this after a warning letter from a French publisher.
According to an co-conspirator in the protest, French politician Isabelle Attard, “The best protection of the work is to bring it in the public domain, because its audience will grow even more,” said Ms. Attard, who noted that her own Jewish relatives were hidden or deported during the German occupation in France. “What is happening now is a bluff and pure intimidation.”
By James Haleavy