World Intellectual Property Day and the Anne Frank Case

It’s a recurring discussion. Every time a major work is about to enter the public domain, debate flares up if and when it can be freely accessed. Due to differences in national copyright legislation it is often difficult to determine when copyright protection ends. In a time where access to knowledge is global, this leads to absurd situations. So is “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in the public domain in most parts of the world but, due to an exception in copyright law, not in France.

Despite the long effort to harmonise digital law in Europe, the road towards a single copyright system is certainly not at an end yet. The Copyright Term Directive determines that 70 years after the death of the author, a work enters the public domain. But in practice, each Member State still has its own copyright system that applies within its own territory. A grey area of exceptions makes it incredibly hard to determine if a work is still protected by copyright or not.AF

April 26 is World Intellectual Property Day. Centrum Cyfrowe, Communia, and Kennisland decided to use this opportunity to show how absurd and outdated the current EU copyright framework is by launching a campaign called #ReadAnneDiary. They will publishing a version of  The Diary of Anne Frank at the website which will only be accessible for people in Poland. Recently, Anne Frank’s famous diary has been in the spotlight because of a copyright dispute about when the literary work enters the public domain. After some intricate legal calculations, it seems that the Dutch version of The Diary of Anne Frank is now in the public domain in Poland, but not in other EU countries, due to specific aspects of national copyright laws. The patchwork of EU copyright rules is confusing, and the public is paying the price by not having access to some of their most important creative and cultural works.

If copyright is indeed the primary system of assigning ownership in knowledge driven economies then we should be seriously concerned about the complexity of the system. If we want to fully unlock the potential of our rich cultural heritage, we need clear rules that allow anyone to determine whether a work is still protected by copyright or not.

If you are interested in finding out more about the action, you can read the article on the copyright status of Anne Frank’s diary.

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