The Diary of Anne Frank has been removed from book repository Wikisource after the site became aware it had fallen foul of copyright law.

The site briefly hosted a digital copy of Het Achterhuis, the first version of the diary compiled by Anne’s father Otto, which was published in 1947.

It had been put online in the belief that the copyright expired in January 2016, 70 years after Anne’s death.

However under US law it is protected until 2042.

Wikisource removed the book voluntarily.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia as well as Wikisource, said its action was “an unfortunate example of the overreach of the US’ current copyright law”.

“In general, the US copyright for works published before 1978 is 95 years from date of publication,” it said.

“Foreign works of countries that are treaty partners to the United States are covered as if they were US works.”
Copyright confusion

The removal of the book has highlighted confusion over the copyright status of Anne Frank’s famous diary, because so many different editions exist and legislation varies around the world.

Under European law, books typically leave copyright 70 years after the author’s death and can then be reproduced freely.
Anne Frank died in 1945, which suggests that her elements of the original Dutch language version of the diary is now copyright free.

It is in fact in the public domain in some countries, including the UK.

But since it was compiled and edited by Anne’s father Otto Frank, who omitted much of the content in her original manuscripts, some people argue that he created a new version of the text which should be protected by its own copyright.

Otto Frank died in 1980, which would mean the copyright of the 1947 edition does not expire in many countries until 2050.

Anne Frank Fonds, a charitable foundation founded by Otto Frank, told the BBC that it believes Anne Frank’s full, unedited manuscripts, which were published in 1986, do remain under copyright.

However the group added that it did not believe Mr Frank should be considered a co-author of his daughter’s work.

“Copyright duration can be tricky to determine because the rules can be different in different countries, it can depend on facts that are very difficult to determine and the law as applied to those facts can be complex,” said Adam Rendle, a UK copyright lawyer at Taylor Wessing.

“It gets even trickier when different versions have been published and different authors have had different levels of input into those versions, as seems to have happened here.”

Mr Rendle also pointed out that translations of the book will be under the copyright of the people who translated them.

“Publication on the internet can become a minefield when different countries have different copyright durations,” he pointed out.

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