Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, may soon be legally recognized as co-author of the famous Jewish teen’s Holocaust era diary, The New York Times reported.
Otto published his daughter’s diary, in which she chronicled the two years that the family spent hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, in 1947.
The pages of Anne’s diary had been left scattered across the secret annex when her family was arrested in 1944. Miep Gies, who helped to hide the family, collected the pages and returned them to Otto after his release from Auschwitz in 1945. Anne had died earlier in the year in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.
Before publishing, Otto wrote a prologue to the diary which stated that the book was written mostly by Anne.
The Anne Frank Fonds, the Swiss foundation that holds the copyright to “The Diary of Anne Frank,” is now telling publishers that Otto Frank should not only be credited as the book’s editor, but also legally, as co-author.
There is a practical application to the move. Normally, European copyrights expired 70 years after an author’s death. As Anne died in 1945, the copy right is set to expire on January 1, 2016. Otto died in 1980, which would extend the copyright. A copyright extension would prevent others from publishing the book without permission or paying royalties, said the Times.
In the United States, the copyright is due to expire in 2047. In the US works published between 1922 and 1978 are protected for 95 years. The first US edition of the diary was published in 1952.
“The longer they can claim copyright protection, the longer they can ask money for publication of the works,” said Stef van Gompel, a professor at the University of Amsterdam who specializes in copyright law.
A number of people are opposed to move, saying that the foundation “should think very carefully about the consequences.”
Agnès Tricoire, a lawyer in Paris who specializes in intellectual property rights said that “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 move may also cause the foundation to butt heads with the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam. The two bodies have had a number of legal disputes over the years including ownership of archives and trademark issues.
For the last five years the museum has been working with a team of researchers and historians to create an elaborate web version of the diary which was scheduled to be released once the current copyright expires.
“We haven’t decided yet when or how the results will be published,” said Maatje Mostart, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank House. “Any publishing will always be done within the legal frameworks.”
She emphasized that neither “Otto Frank nor any other person is co-author.”
Gerben Zaagsma, a historian of modern Jewish history at the University of Göttingen in Germany said that “effectively, Otto split up the legacy of his daughter, which one could say has created a bit of a nice mess ever since.” Zaagsma is working on a scholarly edition of the diary endorsed by the foundation and Germany’s culture ministry.
Yves Kugelmann, a board member of the foundation asserts that the foundations goal is to “make sure that Anne Frank stays Anne,” by maintaining control and avoiding inappropriate exploitation of the work. “When she died, she was a young girl who was not even 16. We are protecting her. That is our task.”