Diary of Anne Frank entering public domain could trigger lawsuit

Anne Frank 1929-1945 (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)Anne Frank 1929-1945 (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

It seems inevitable that the question of whether or not Anne Frank's diary will enter public domain on January 1st next year will end in a lawsuit between the Swiss Anne Frank Fund and the Amsterdam Anne Frank Foundation. 

Copyright on writings expires 70 years after the author's death. According to the Volkskrant, the Swiss Anne Frank Fund believes that Anne's father Otto Frank has the status of co-author, and therefore copyright, on Anne's writing as he drafted it after her death. He passed away in 1980, which means that the copyright remains in effect until 2050. Otto Frank published Anne's writings for the first time in 1947 in the book Het Achterhuis.

The Amsterdam Anne Frank Foundation, on the other hand, believes that Anne Frank was the sole author of her writings. She died in February 1945, which means that the copyright expires next year. Anne-Marie Bekker, spokesperson of the Amsterdam Foundation, told the newspaper that the foundation recognizes Otto Frank as the editor of the diary's trade edition, but not as co-author. "He made editorial choices for this edition, but it's still Anne's diary." The Amsterdam foundation is currently working on a new digital edition of the diary with the Huygens Institute of Dutch History.

Both the Swiss and Amsterdam foundations were founded by Otto Frank. The Swiss fund was set up to manage the copyright on Anne's diary. The aim of the Amsterdam foundation was to prevent the house in Amsterdam where his family hid up until August 1944 from being demolished.

According to Stef van Gompel, researcher at the University of Amsterdam who specializes in copyright, only a court can recognize Otto Frank as co-author of Anne Frank's diary. "That the Anne Frank Fund calls Otto Frank co-author has no legal status" Van Gompel said to the Volkskrant. "And I don't think they'll succeed in getting Otto Frank recognized as co-author before a judge. His contribution to Het Acterhuis is too small for that."