Like we do every year, the US is missing out on the public domain party, but over in Europe a couple seminal works have just passed into the public domain.
In much of Europe copyright expires seventy calendar years after the death after the death of the creator, which means that works by authors who died in 1945 passed into the public domain in Europe today.
That includes, for example, the original German text for Hitler's Mein Kampf, but just as importantly the original Dutch-language Diary of Anne Frank has also passed into the public domain in Europe. (Coincidentally, both works had passed into the public domain in 1995, in Canada and other nations with a death plus fifty copyright term.)
Written between 1942 and 1945 while the young Anne Frank was hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, the diary is one of the best original documents that detail what people went through under the Nazi regime. It was originally published in the Netherlands and elsewhere in 1947 (including the US).
The work can be found on the blog of French parliament member Isabelle Attard, as well as other sites, in MSWord, text, and Epub. There was also suggestions that the Anne Frank House museum was going to publish the diary as an interactive website, but I have not found it yet.
The release comes amidst a messy legal dispute brought about by copyfraud claims from Anne Frank Fonds, the Swiss non-profit that had held the copyright on the diary. Established by Anne's father Otto Frank, the foundation has profited from the copyright for over 40 years, and earlier this year it sought to extend control of its revenue source via a novel legal argument.
The Anne Frank Fonds declared in 2014, and reiterated last year, that it had decided that the first published version of the diary was actually the work of both Otto Frank and Anne Frank. With Otto Frank now the co-author, the work would theoretically remain under copyright for another 35 years (Otto Frank died in 1980).
For now, the work remains online, but the foundation has said as recently as Tuesday that it believes that the hand-written manuscripts are still under copyright because, and I am not making this up, the original manuscripts were not published until the 1980s (nearly 40 years after the first version of the diary was published).
The foundation is also continuing to claim that Otto Frank is the co-author of that first version, and that it is still under copyright as well.
Whether that last claim stands up in court is difficult to say, but this story is clearly not over with yet.