“I wish to go on living even after my death”
-Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
This was just one of the famous lines that Anne Frank wrote in her diary – ‘Kitty’, which it was fondly referred to as by Anne when she penned her thoughts into it. Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl or more famously known as the Diary of Anne Frank was a journal or a diary of a young Jewish girl who, along with her family, had managed to hide from the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, for two years, before they were betrayed in August, 1944. The book was retrieved by Miep Gies, a Dutch citizen who had hidden Anne Frank and her family and was given to Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the lone survivor of family, who later published it as a memoir.
The famed book is all set to go into the public domain on 1st January, 2016 in Europe as the protection period for copyrighted works in Europe is termed at – life of the author plus 70 years after his/her death. However, Anne Frank Fonds (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Foundation’), the Swiss foundation holding the copyright to the book, in a recent move, has tried to extend the copyright by 35 years i.e., till 2050 by claiming that Otto Frank was not only the editor of the book but was also the co-author of the book. However, in the prologue written by Otto Frank in the book, he had assured the readers that the contents of the book contained mostly his daughter’s words. Yet, now, the foundation contends that Otto had intentionally distorted his daughter’s views and thoughts and that which were published were not of Anne’s. Does this mean that all this while the Foundation has been duping millions of readers across the world?
Further to this, one Ms. Mirjam Pressler has also claimed copyright as a second editor, as she had revised, edited and added 25 percent more material from Anne Frank’s diary for what was called a “definitive edition” in 1991.
The Foundation has been a target of tremendous amount of criticism across the world as many see this as a move to continue to make more money. But according to various officials of the Foundation, their aim behind this move is to “make sure that Anne Frank stays Anne” and that “it is not about the money”. The Foundation was setup by Otto Frank in Basel in the year 1963 as his universal heir and any money that was earned by the sale of the books was to go to various charities. Even though the Foundation does not regularly publish its financial reports, it is said to have donated over $1.5 million annually in the recent year.
The move by the foundation to increase the duration of the copyright, however has raised many questions, one question that takes prominence from the rest is that if the Foundation’s contention that Otto Frank is indeed a co-author as he “created a new work” because of his role of editing, merging and trimming entries from her diary and notebooks and reshaping them into a “kind of a collage” meriting its own copyright were to be taken to Court, where it is held to be valid, then such a holding would give vast powers to the editors and thereby undermine the rights of the author in his/her work.
To conclude in the words of the blogger Cory Doctorow “To treat the words of Anne Frank, who inspired so many millions around the world, as an eternal money-spinner for one organisation’s purposes is to cheapen them. They’re not an annuity: they’re an inspiration. They can’t be both.”
Authored by Ankita Dhar