Anne Frank's dad is diary's co-author

Anne Frank aka Annelies Marie was Otto Frank’s younger daughter and often a subject in her father’s photographs, along with her sister Margot and mother Edith.
Anne Frank aka Annelies Marie was Otto Frank’s younger daughter and often a subject in her father’s photographs, along with her sister Margot and mother Edith.PHOTO: AFS/AFF, AMSTERDAM/BASEL

PARIS • When Otto Frank first published his daughter's red- checked diary and notebooks, he wrote a prologue assuring readers that the book mostly contained her words, written while hiding from the Nazis in a secret annexe of a factory in Amsterdam.

But now the Swiss foundation that holds the copyright to The Diary Of Anne Frank is alerting publishers that her father is not only the editor but also legally the co-author of the celebrated book.

The move extends the copyright from Jan 1, when it is set to expire in most of Europe, to the end of 2050. Copyrights in Europe generally end 70 years after an author's death.

Anne Frank, 15, died 70 years ago at a concentration camp and her father died in 1980. Extending the copyright would block others from being able to publish the book without paying royalties or receiving permission.

While the foundation, the Anne Frank Fonds, in Basel, signalled its intentions a year ago, warnings about the change have provoked a furore as the deadline approaches. Some people opposed to the move have declared that they would defy the foundation and publish portions of her text.

Foundation officials "should think very carefully about the consequences", said Ms Agnes Tricoire, a lawyer in Paris who specialises in intellectual property rights in France, where critics are organising a challenge. "If you follow their arguments, it means that they have lied for years about the fact that it was only written by Anne Frank."

The decision has also set the foundation on a possible collision course with the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, a separate entity that for years has sparred with the foundation over legal questions, such as ownership of archives and trademark issues.

The museum has been working for five years on an elaborate Web version of the diary intended for publication once the copyright expires. "We haven't decided yet when or how the results will be published," said Ms Maatje Mostart, a spokesman for the museum. "Any publishing will always be done within the legal frameworks."

She added pointedly that neither "Otto Frank nor any other person is co-author".

Six years ago, the foundation - which donates proceeds from sales of the book to charities - had asked legal experts for advice on the book's copyright, said Mr Yves Kugelmann, a member of the foundation's board.

They concluded, he said, that Otto "created a new work" because of his role of editing, merging and trimming entries from Frank's diary and notebooks and reshaping them into "kind of a collage" meriting its own copyright. Merely declaring Otto the "co-author" on copyright filings extends the copyright, legal experts said, though such a stand could be tested in the courts.

Readers would not see any changes on the books themselves, foundation officials said. They said their aim is to "make sure that Anne Frank stays Anne", Mr Kugelmann said, by maintaining control. Critics, he said, are wrongly looking at the intended change as a financial matter. "It is not about the money," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'Anne Frank's dad is diary's co-author'. Print Edition | Subscribe