"The Diary of a Young Girl" authored by Jewish teenage girl Anne Frank during her time in hiding from 1940 to 1944 is widely considered a touchstone of both literature and history. Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis in the occupied city of Amsterdam during World War II. They were ultimately discovered, and Anne died of typhus in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen in 1945. After the war had ended, the lone surviving member of the family, Anne's father Otto, found his daughter's diaries, compiled and edited them, and typed a manuscript that was first published in 1947. Since then, "The Diary of a Young Girl" has sold more than 30 million copies and has been translated into more than 70 languages.

Now, 70 years after Anne Frank's death, her diaries have spawned some copyright controversy. Since Anne died in 1945, her work was expected to enter the public domain on 1 January 2016 because copyrights in Europe generally expire 70 years after the author's death (cf. Art. 64 of the German Copyright Act; Art. 1 of Directive 2006/116/EC) – but it might not happen:

On 17 November 2014, the Anne Frank Foundation – a non-profit organization that, to this day, administers the copyrights on all of the writings by Anne Frank – issued a statement that it would be "wrong to assume that the copyrights to Anne Frank's Diaries would be due to expire in the near future, or that anyone would be free to use and publish them without permission." The foundation claims that the editors of the two versions of the diaries that have been published in 1947 and 1991, Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler, respectively, earned a copyright on their own. They both significantly revised and edited material from the original diaries and, thus, should each be considered a co-author of the work. The copyrights to the adaptations by Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler, which are property of the foundation, would not expire until much later – Otto Frank died in 1980 and Mirjam Pressler is still alive.

Final Remarks

It will be difficult to establish whether the editors contributed to Anne Frank's diary in a way that was meaningful enough to make them each a co-author. The question of co-authorship will ultimately depend on the editors' intellectual contribution to the diary – a matter that can only be assessed knowing precisely what they did. In any event, the alleged co-authorship of Anne Frank's father and Mirjam Pressler will have no bearing on the diary's copyright term in the United States. Works originally copyrighted after 1922 and renewed before 1978 were given a copyright term of 95 years (a first term of 28 years plus a renewal term of 67 years) from the end of the year in which they were originally secured. Since the English version of the diary was registered in 1952, it will remain under copyright until 2047. The original Dutch version was registered in 1947 and its copyright term will expire in 2042.

Tags: Co-Authorship, Copyright Term, The Diary of a Young Girl

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