(JTA) — The Swiss foundation that owns the publication rights to Anne Frank’s diary is adding the famous diarist’s father, Otto, as co-author, in what is widely viewed as an effort to extend the book’s European copyright.
If the authorship change goes unchallenged, the Anne Frank Fonds, which Otto Frank established, will retain control over all printings of the book until 2050, The New York Times reported.
In most European countries, copyrights automatically expire 70 years after the author’s death; in this case, the copyright is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31. The change would have minimal effect in the United States, where, according to the Times, the copyright won’t expire until 95 years after its first U.S. publication in 1952.
Anne Frank died in 1945 at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, shortly before her 16th birthday. Otto Frank, the only immediate family member to survive the Holocaust, lived until 1980.
A foundation spokesman told the Times that legal experts had advised the foundation that adding Otto Frank as a co-author is justified because he “created a new work” by editing and reshaping the diary into “kind of a collage.”
The copyright extension would most immediately impact the foundation’s rival, the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam, which has been producing an online version of the diary that cannot go live until the foundation’s copyright expires.
Both institutions had the support of Otto Frank, who bequeathed different materials to each, and the two have long had a contentious relationship. Decades ago, Anne Frank Fonds accused the Anne Frank House of commercializing the Holocaust victim’s story by selling balloons and T-shirts at a traveling exhibit of the museum’s artifacts and, in 2013, a Dutch court ordered the Amsterdam museum to return a cache of 25,000 documents loaned by the Swiss organization. Both sides accused each other of blocking a more amicable resolution to the conflict.
“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 at the University of Gottingen in Germany, told the Times.
While is not clear yet whether the Anne Frank House or others will challenge the authorship change in court, and thus the copyright, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank House told The Times that neither “Otto Frank nor any other person is co-author.”