Anne Frank's diary goes online despite rights dispute

Anne Frank.
Anne Frank.

PARIS • A French academic and a member of parliament have published online the famous diary of Anne Frank, despite a dispute with rights holders over whether the work is now in the public domain.

The duo claim Diary Of A Young Girl became public property on New Year's Day last Friday as 70 years had elapsed since Frank's death at age 15 in the Bergen- Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

Under a 1993 European law, a book loses exclusive copyright at the start of the seventh decade after its author or authors are dead.

"In regards to this book, this testimony and what it represents, I bear the conviction that there is no greater combat than to fight for its freedom, no greater tribute than to share it without restriction," wrote University of Nantes lecturer Olivier Ertzscheid, who posted the work online in its original Dutch.

Frank used the diary to chronicle her life from June 1942 to August 1944 when she and her family were in hiding in Amsterdam.

A tableau of life for persecuted Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, it was first published in Dutch in 1947 by her father, who deleted some passages. More than 30 million copies have been sold.

The Anne Frank Fund, based in Basel, Switzerland, holds the publication rights and said it had sent a letter threatening legal action as the diary was published.

The fund argues that the book is a posthumous work, for which copyright extends 50 years past the publication date, and that a 1986 version published by the Dutch State Institute for War Documentation is protected by copyright until at least 2037.

Ertzscheid had in October published on his website two French versions of the book, only to take them down after publisher Livre du Poche sent a formal notice stating the translators' copyright was still in effect.

He pointed out that another famous work with World War II ties had also entered the public domain last Friday: Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic manifesto Mein Kampf.

French MP Isabelle Attard of the Green Party also published Frank's book online in its original Dutch last Friday, arguing that "fighting the 'privatisation of knowledge' is an absolutely topical issue".

She has criticised the fund's opposition as a "question of money", adding that if the work is in the public domain, its author would gain even more renown.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2016, with the headline 'Anne Frank's diary goes online despite rights dispute'. Print Edition | Subscribe