Recently, everybody has been busy discussing the question of whether the Diary of Anne Frank will enter (or by now, has entered) the public domain on January 1st this year (Answer: It’s complicated). Surprisingly, the discussions surrounding the copyright in Anne Frank’s writings may shed some light on another contentious copyright policy issue: text and data mining. These insights are the result of a recent ruling by the District Court of Amsterdam in dealing with a dispute between the Anne Frank Stichting (owner of the physical diaries and operator of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam) and the Anne Frank Fonds (owner of the copyrights in Anne Frank’s writings).
The Anne Frank Stichting announced plans to publish an edition of Anne Frank’s texts online after the presumed expiration of the copyright on January 1, 2016. In response, the Anne Frank Fonds sued the Stichting over what it considered unauthorised reproductions of Anne Frank’s writings. The reproductions had been made by the Stichting as part of its preparatory research for the on-line publication after the new year. Initially, this seemed to be an attempt by the Fonds to thwart or delay the Stichting’s plans for an online edition.
However, during the course of the legal arguments it became clear that under Dutch law (which governs uses made by the Stichting), Anne Frank’s original writings would not enter the public domain in 2016. This is due to a transitional rule in the Dutch copyright act which states that works posthumously published before 1995 will retain copyright—in this case large parts of the original writings will only expire in 2037.
While this means that the Stichting had to shelve its plan to publish an online edition, the Fonds continued to press charges related to the reproductions (XML-TEI files) made by the Stichting in order to carry out its textual and historical research. The Stichting was sued alongside their research partner the Dutch Royal Academy of Science (KNAW). Both upheld the position that it did not require permission for making reproductions solely intended to enable its internal scholarship, claiming that copyright law should not be used to thwart scientific research. Continue reading