University of Nantes lecturer Olivier Ertzscheid told AFP Wednesday that the planned January 1 publication date in the diary's original Dutch would be after the “Diary of a Young Girl” falls within public domain. European copyright law dictates that a book become public domain on the first day of January 70 years after the author's death.
Anne Frank, who penned the historic diary during World War II, died at the age of 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. Her diary is one of the primary pieces of literature detailing life in Nazi-era Europe, with more than 30 million copies sold since its publication in 1947.
Ertzscheid, who describes himself as a “activist” when it comes to public domain, calls the pushback against publication “appalling”, adding that anti-Semitic works such as Adolf Hitler's “Mein Kampf” will enter public domain on Friday.
The researcher had in October published on his website two French versions of the book, only to take them down after the Livre du Poche publisher sent a formal notice stating that copyright for translators was still in effect.
French parliament member Isabelle Attard also plans to publish the book in its original Dutch on January 1.
The Anne Frank Fund, based in Basel, Switzerland, holds the rights to publication and told AFP that it had sent a letter threatening legal action if the diary was published.
The Fund argues that the book is a posthumous work, for which copyright extends 50 years past the publication date, and that a 1986 version published by the Dutch State Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) is under copyright until at least 2037.
“Under Dutch copyright law, a work first published posthumously before 1995 remains protected for 50 years after the initial publication,” the fund said in a statement on its website. It said a decision by a Dutch court on 23rd December confirmed that the book would remain covered by copyright.
Attard criticised the move as a “question of money”, adding that if the work was in the public domain Frank would win “even more renown”.
The Anne Frank Fund, founded by her father Otto Frank, says it uses money from the sale of Frank's books and licenses for a wide range of charitable purposes.