Anne Frank Scandal: An Underreported Copyright Monopoly Abuse

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The seminal Anne Frank's Diary is elevated to public domain in a month and a half. But the foundation holding the copyright is trying legal trickery to extend its monopoly by decades, and almost nobody reports it as the fraud it is.

copyright-brandedAnne Frank‘s Diary, if you haven’t heard of it, is the notes of a girl who hid in Amsterdam from the nazis toward the end of World War II. Sadly, she didn’t make it, and died at nazi hands in 1945.

Her diary has become a seminal work to understand what people in the occupied countries went through on a personal level, beyond the statistics. It was compiled after her death and after the war by her father, Otto Frank.

As Anne Frank died in 1945, this work would be elevated to the public domain in six weeks, on January 1, 2016 – 70 years after her death. However, the foundation that holds the copyright (and therefore collects a significant amount of money from this work) is now trying an obvious abuse of their monopoly, by suddenly naming her father Otto a co-author of her diary where he was previously just an editor. This move purportedly extends their own monopoly on the piece of heritage by decades – all the way through 2050 – out of the blue.

What’s really infuriating about this is how oldmedia doesn’t call it out as fraud at all, but takes a completely neutral stance. Most outlets seem to be rewrites of the New York Times story, which just neutrally reports “the book now has a co-author”, quotes a few people in the worst form of abdicative “he-said-she-said journalism”, and leaves it at that.

Let’s be clear on three points here: One, this is a fraud committed for the sole purpose of preventing the work from being elevated to the public domain; two, it is committed now as the book would otherwise be elevated to the public domain a mere six weeks from now — if Otto Frank was objectively a co-author, it would reasonably have said so from the beginning, and not when then monopoly was down to the wire; and three, oldmedia remains abysmally ignorant of how the copyright monopoly is used to punish and withhold, rather than the illusory encourage and reward.

Not one single oldmedia outlet has called out the fraud, even though it’s right in their face.

The tech outlets are less inhibited. BoingBoing is much more upright, calling it fraud in the very header.

The thing is that this ignorance is endemic to oldmedia. The Internet is the single most important piece of infrastructure we have, and policymakers are letting an old printing monopoly decide how it can and cannot be used – which should be cause for revolts and uprisings. Instead, oldmedia are collectively treating it with a yawn, while tech writers who understand the issue are calling a spade a spade.

What’s worse, it’s widely assumed that the cost of the monopoly is zero. But as BoingBoing observes, there have been two houses fighting in lockstep over petty monopolies to bring the story of Anne Frank to the world – and seeing how that number is typically limited to one, now that it’s evidently possible to have two, what sets a cap at two? Why can’t it be two hundred or two thousand?

That’s the harm of the copyright monopoly. Putting it differently, were it not for the copyright monopoly, we wouldn’t have had seven Harry Potter books but rather upwards of seven thousand, many utter crap but some outright stellar. There’s a real cultural cost, a real cost to our common heritage, right there. That’s how the copyright monopoly punishes and withholds us all.

And oldmedia is completely oblivious to it.

About The Author

Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at focuses on information policy.

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