The Diary of a Young Girl entered the public domain on 1 January 2016. The book contains journal entries written by Anne Frank while she and her family were in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The diary dates between 14 June 1942 and 1 August 1944. She and her family were captured on 4 August 1944, and she later died in early 1945 at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, possibly from typhus.
European law says that a work enters public domain 70 years following the author’s death. Despite this, the Anne Frank Fund (a Swiss charity who previously owned the rights) is vowing a legal fight to withhold the release. They claim that Anne’s father, Otto Frank, earned a copyright due to his extensive editing work and that the diary should be protected until at least 2050, or 70 years following his death in 1980. The Anne Frank Fund relies on proceeds from the diary to fund numerous charitable organizations.
Olivier Ertzscheid, a lecturer and copyright activist was undeterred by these claims. He posted the diary online, free for download in its original Dutch form (this version is in plain text. If you prefer a more navigable form, visit here). I agree with him. I am not an expert on copyright law, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Granting after-the-fact co-authorship to an editor in order to maintain copyright protection feels dirty. Such an action, if granted, would seemingly subvert the rights of original authors.
While the Anne Frank Fund may do good work with its earnings from sales of the diary, a greater good is achieved if all have access to Anne Frank’s words. A good portion of us would have no problem buying a copy of the book, but many are not so fortunate. My wife and I toured the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam during a trip to Europe, and it was a very powerful experience. Everyone deserves the same. The diary is a voice, frozen in time — a time when unspeakable horrors were perpetrated against millions of human beings. Voices like Anne’s are necessary so that we never forget the past, so that we remain vigilant to never allow such horrors to repeat.