Today in legal loopholes, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ now has an official co-author

It’s been almost 70 years since Anne Frank perished in a concentration camp, and about 36 years since her father, Otto, passed away. But their names are still known all over the world due to Anne’s beautiful and famous diary. The diary, which illustrates the Frank family’s time hiding from the Nazis, has sold 30 million copies and has been translated into 70 languages. But now the diary is making news due to legal changes to the document: Anne Frank’s diary is getting a co-author.

As the New York Times reports, Swiss foundation the Anne Frank Fonds, which holds the rights to the diary is informing publishers that Anne’s father not only held rights to the book, but was also the diary’s co-author. The reason for this is quite practical — to buy time. European copyrights usually end 70 years after the author’s death, which means the diary’s copyright would technically end on January 1st of next year. If Otto is named co-author, the copyright extends to the end of 2050. (In the United States, the copyright will end in 2047, 95 years after the book’s first publication.)

The Anne Frank Fonds claims that Otto created a “new work” because of his editing, trimming, and merging various entries into a “kind of a collage.” “When she died, she was a young girl who was not even 16,” Yves Kugelmann, a member of the foundation’s board, told the New York Times. “We are protecting her. That is our task. . . It is not about the money.”

Although the Anne Frank Fonds has been fighting for this change for a year, many are very angry that Otto has been named co-author, especially since Otto repeatedly said throughout his life that the book is mostly composed of his daughter’s words. The foundation “should think very carefully about the consequences,” Agnès Tricoire, a Parisian lawyer specializing in French intellectual property rights, told the New York Times. “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 foundation has also been working on a web version of the diary to be published after the copyright expires. “We haven’t decided yet when or how the results will be published,” Maatje Mostart, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank House, told the New York Times. “Any publishing will always be done within the legal frameworks. . . Otto Frank nor any other person is co-author.”

Otto Frank was the only survivor of the Frank family. In an effort to save Anne’s legacy, he arranged to have the diary and notebooks published, and the City of Amsterdam helped him secure the building where the family hid during the war, later turning it into the museum the Anne Frank House. Otto also set up the Anne Frank Fonds foundation in Switzerland to collect the money from the diary and send it to charities “such as Unicef, children’s education projects and a medical fund that today supports about 50 gentiles who saved Jews during the war,” according to the New York Times. “Effectively, Otto split up the legacy of his daughter, which one could say has created a bit of a nice mess ever since,” Gerben Zaagsma, a historian of modern Jewish history, told the New York Times.

While many experts approve of the decision, still others believe the book should follow its due course. “The best protection of the work is to bring it in the public domain, because its audience will grow even more,” French politician Isabelle Attard told the New York Times. “What is happening now is a bluff and pure intimidation.”

Related reading: 

In memory of Anne Frank, some of her most beautiful quotes

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