Anne Frank's diary removed from website

model of Anne Frank writing her diary Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wikimedia removed the book voluntarily

The Diary of Anne Frank has been removed from book repository Wikisource after the site became aware it had fallen foul of copyright law.

The site briefly hosted a digital copy of Het Achterhuis, the first version of the diary compiled by Anne's father Otto, which was published in 1947.

It had been put online in the belief that the copyright expired in January 2016, 70 years after Anne's death.

However, under US law it is protected until 2047.

Wikisource removed the book voluntarily.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia as well as Wikisource, said its action was "an unfortunate example of the overreach of the US' current copyright law".

"In general, the US copyright for works published before 1978 is 95 years from date of publication," it said.

"Foreign works of countries that are treaty partners to the United States are covered as if they were US works."

Copyright confusion

The removal of the book has highlighted confusion over the copyright status of Anne Frank's famous diary, because so many different editions exist and legislation varies around the world.

Under European law, books typically leave copyright 70 years after the author's death and can then be reproduced freely.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Copyright law varies around the world

Anne Frank died in 1945, which suggests that her elements of the original Dutch language version of the diary are now copyright free.

"The elements of the original, un-edited version written by Anne Frank - which were first published in 1947 - are now in the public domain in the UK, given she died in 1945 and the copyright duration in the UK for the version published then will be no longer than 70 years after her death," commented Adam Rendle from the law firm Taylor Wessing.

However, this is disputed by Anne Frank Fonds, a charitable foundation founded by Otto Frank.

It says that because Anne's father compiled and edited the initial version of the book sold to the public, he earned his own copyright, even though it acknowledges that he should not be considered its "co-author".

Since Otto Frank died in 1980, it says that means the copyright of the 1947 edition would not expire in many countries until 2050.

Furthermore, the foundation notes that Anne Frank's full, unedited manuscripts were not published until 1986, so it argues these are protected by copyright for even longer .


"Copyright duration can be tricky to determine because the rules can be different in different countries, it can depend on facts that are very difficult to determine and the law as applied to those facts can be complex," said Mr Rendle.

"It gets even trickier when different versions have been published and different authors have had different levels of input into those versions, as seems to have happened here."

Mr Rendle also pointed out that translations of the book will be under the copyright of the people who translated them.

"Publication on the internet can become a minefield when different countries have different copyright durations," he pointed out.

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