Anne Frank's diary is in the public domain; editors aren't co-authors

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Yeah, a seriously weak play by the Swiss. Editorial work is covered by copyright, but only the editorial work. The original unedited text remains Anne Frank’s no matter what, and the copyright is expiring. There’s nothing they can do about that. So, yes, new translations from the original source will start to appear.


There is a French saying, rien d’argent, rien de Suisse. It would seem to apply here in reverse.


While the original diary will be in the Public Domain, any translations of the text have their own copyright protection. So the English version I’ve seen posted by people is NOT free of copyright. But now anyone could make their own English/other translations of the original text and dedicate them to the public domain.


This is true only if the original source is available to the public. Has the original, unedited diary ever been published, or been made freely available (i.e., without the requirement to sign any sort of non-disclosure agreement) to researchers? I recall that many holocaust deniers’ main argument challenging the authenticity of the diary, or at least the historical facts it purports to document, is that Otto prevented anyone from accessing the original book. I have no idea whether this claim was correct (or if it was true at one point but is no longer true now).

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Vive Anne Frank, vive le Domaine Public, published by the French politician Isabelle Attard and Olivier Ertzscheid of the University of Nantes.

eta: I just realized that Cory linked this already in his post. So your question was already answered, it simply needed RTFA ; )


[quote=“doctorow, post:1, topic:71451”]As the end of the copyright in Frank’s work approached, the Swiss foundation made a bizarre legal argument to keep it in copyright several more years: they argued that Otto Frank was actually one of the authors of the diary…

The argument also means that editors are, for copyright purposes, co-authors. This would mean that for virtually all published authors, the corporations that published them would have a claim over their books, even after the writer’s contract with the publisher had terminated and the author had moved on.

Why wouldn’t the corporations have a copyright interest in the book their editor helped shape? If book editors can’t have a copyright interest then neither can re-mixers.

I’d think that the issue would boil down to the nature and extent of the editing. Typos and grammar? Not so much. But re-ordering and restructuring multiple narratives into a coherent whole? I’d have to say, yeah, that is deserving of a copyright interest.

While I am offended by the Anne Frank Foundation’s last minute copyright maximalist control and money grab (they really should have planned in advance for the known expiration date of their cash cow), there is merit to the idea that structural editing should confer a copyright interest in the altered version, but not the original material. It is certainly not a “bizarre” claim, but rather one that BB has likely made repeatedly with respect to re-mix culture. Life of the author plus 70, though, remains complete BS.

(OT: way too easy to accidentally delete a post. No confirmation button when I accidentally clicked on the trash can instead of the pencil. No undo/undelete function I could find.)


Yes, the complete diary, or rather diaries, were published after Ottos death, with annotations from various scholars.
The full backstory here is that Anne was fully aware of how extraordinary her situation was, and she had aspirations to write a proper novel about it all if they got out alive, so she gathered a lot of material.
Otto actually did a pretty big job in sorting and condensing the notes, it’s not as if he just crossed out a few paragraphs and set it to the publisher.

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In conjunction with any life-of-author-plus-X rule, this is just asking for abuse.

Pick ten smart kids from a country with good health care and involve them in the editing process just enough so that they become co-authors; make sure the contract makes them sign over all their rights back to your organisation. Then keep all original manuscripts secret. Result: Copyright term extended from “life + 70 years” to “life expectancy + 70 years”.

Or better yet, forget about the kids, just make sure you only distribute your material on media that decay within, say, 60 years (leaving some margin of error). After 40 years, release a special edition.
Lobby for a law that clarifies that copies that were illegal when they are made can’t be the basis of public domain copies after copyright expires. Result: eternally renewable copyright.

By the way, has any US corporation already proposed the legal theory that “life + 70 years” should be interpreted to refer to the life of the corporation that was involved in a work’s creation?


While that is a vivid parade of horribles, it isn’t an actual argument that structural editors cannot or do not make copyright worthy contributions to books.

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Nor was I claiming it was. I just think this is something to watch out for when writing or applying laws that are intended to strike a balance between authors’ interests and the public interest.

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I’d say that it’s something that is tied up in the “life of the author plus” concept rather than in the idea that editing can be worthy of a copyright interest. If the copyright terms started ticking based on date of publication (including posting to the web) or some such as they used to be, then your proposed horrible wouldn’t exist. Tactically it is clearly easier to attack something that is not so entrenched (copyright interests of editors) rather than something that is entrenched, by international treaty (life of the author plus copyright terms). However, even though attacking editor’s copyright interests might be tactically easier, I’m not sure it is something that should be attacked just because it can be.



Good. Maybe now we can finally get a sequel.

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Otto Frank has finally completed his robot to kill Adolf Hitler, only Hitler’s already dead - or is he?

Anne Frank is back, and this time she’s kicking ass. No gun grabbing secret Muslim dictator is safe.

Ann Coulter stars as Robot Anne Frank. Kevin Sorbo is Barack Hussein Obama.

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To be exact, my first “horrible” results from the interaction of editor’s copyright and life+70, my second one is based on editor’s copyright plus a non-existent addition to copyright law, and my third one is based on life+70 and (a paranoid interpretation of) Citizen’s United.

Expanding copyright to encompass arrangement might open the door to a mechanical royalty on sampling, so I’m torn.

I’m not sure I’m 100% on my terms here, but hopefully you see the connection I’m trying to make.

I’ve got a copy of the book somewhere. I think it’s in the attic.

At some level, this is one of the problems with “Life +” copyright terms…

Zathras’ “horribles” are worth considering. Given the preposterous Citizens United decision, I wouldn’t be surprised if a corporation, having bought rights to a product, would argue that, since corporations are people the copyright will last for the corporation’s life + 70 years. Corporations don’t die, so the term would be forever. True, a corporation may go out of business, but once this lucrative loophole is opened legal frameworks will be quickly found to extend corporate “life” to its successors.