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US Copyright Law Forces Wikimedia To Remove the Diary of Anne Frank (wikimedia.org) 178

Today, the Wikimedia Foundation announced its removal of The Diary of Anne Frank from Wikisource, a digital library of free texts. According to the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act, works are protected for 95 years from the date of publication, meaning Wikimedia is not allowed to host a copy of the book before 2042. Rogers, the Legal Counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation, says this is just one of the many examples of the overreach of the United States' current copyright law. He goes on to say, "Our removal serves as an excellent example of why the law should be changed to prevent repeated extensions of copyright terms."
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US Copyright Law Forces Wikimedia To Remove the Diary of Anne Frank

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  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @06:36PM (#51497597) Homepage
    This makes complete sense. The point of copyright is to make artists confident that they or their immediate heirs will be able to benefit from their works for a limited time. I'm sure that if Anne Frank knew that almost a century after her diary was written it would be available on a global network of electronic devices that hadn't been invented in her lifetime she would not have wrote the diary at all. I'm also sure that if her father had known that he would have definitely refused to publish it.
    • No, it doesn't make sense. Name any other fields other than books, music and movies that you can create one work and potentially not have to work again the rest of your life and the same for your kids and grandkids and possibly even great grandkids because checks keep rolling in from your ancient creation.

      • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @06:44PM (#51497677) Homepage
        I think you may need to recalibrate your sarcasm detector.
      • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @07:17PM (#51497899) Homepage

        Chemistry [wikipedia.org], software engineering [therichest.com], and whatever led to these things [wikipedia.org].

        Pretty much, every field has the ability to create multimillionaire success stories, given the right combination of luck, inspiration, and hard work. Of course, it's more difficult to copy the chemistry of dynamite than it is to copy a written work, which is why we still know of Alfred Nobel's work, but very few know about Arthur Brooke [wikipedia.org], whose most famous work (if it was even his) predates the first copyright law.

        • by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @07:38PM (#51498047)

          The problem seems to be that it's not really the artists pushing this, but the media empires that pushes the notion of perpetual, rent-seeking copyrights to shield business models.

          The artist gets trotted out as phony victim of limits on copyright, like a marionette, and we're supposed to feel sorry for them and let the media empires keep finding ways to control all intellectual property forever.

          In terms of performing artists, I think there's also a sense that they're being overcompensated for recordings -- basically a single performance. Historically, performers haven't made fortunes off narrow control of copyrighted material, they've been paid for performing. You strummed your lute at the Ye Olde Pub and collected some farthings. If you were lucky, you played for the court and got some gold coins.

          Whether this is a fair concept or not, it's kind of how performers have been rewarded financially for most of history. Material inventions like dynamite seem to be different than creative performances.

          • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Saturday February 13, 2016 @12:09AM (#51499029)

            Right at the beginning of modern copyright, beginning of the 18th century, the publishers started on this thing about "for the artist" and even then they paid a tuppence for unlimited rights while going on about the starving artist.
            It was actually the unelected House of Lords that put their foot down, overrode the elected (bribed) House of Commons who were going to make copyright eternal and limited copyright to 14+14 years for the advancement of learning.
            When the first works fell out of copyright they went to the courts claiming copyright was a common law right. Luckily they lost that one.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          If you invent dynamite, you'll get 20 years of protection. If you write a book about dynamite, you get protection for the age of Mickey Mouse plus 1 year.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        Writing land deeds to remove land from the commons into private ownership is very profitable and can generate income indefinitely. You do have to do some maintenance though.

    • she would not have wrote the diary at all.

      Possibly not, but it wouldn't stop Ernie Wise.

    • by bug1 ( 96678 )

      The point of copyright is to make artists confident that they or their immediate heirs

      Wrong, Copyright has always been about corporations.

      Your living in a fantasy land.... how much do heirs of artists benefit financially from copyright, and how does that compare to the benefits that go to corporation ?

      • by gilgongo ( 57446 )

        Hint: they were being sarcastic. They were not meaning their words literally. It is a form of humour. The the fact that you responded without sarcasm now makes it funnier.

        • by bug1 ( 96678 )

          I'm sure that if Anne Frank knew...

          Read it again;
          If it was sarcasm, they wouldn't have used the "if".

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        Not true, back when modern copyright came to be, the publishers weren't incorporated, more of an exclusive guild, but they knew a good thing, buy the rights to a work for next to nothing and profit forever.

    • On a less sarcastic note, I think that perpetual copyright can be a very good thing. Start with "free" copyright for 15 or 20 years, but then, if a work is profitable at that time, charge a nominal fee to extend the copyright for another 5 years - so, if something were written and copyrighted in 1995, it would be protected to say 2015, and if you're still making money on it - register an extension on the copyright, for a fee. You're making money on the work, obviously it's worth it. For works that aren't

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        I sort of like that idea, but would modify it.

        Copyright is for 5 years and is infinitely renewable. Each issuance or renewal of the copyright costs 2^n * $1 where n is the number of renewals. (I.e., the initial issue costs $1, the first renewal $2, etc.)

        • The numbers work nicely starting at 1, but I see no reason to have people process the paperwork (even when no actual paper is involved) until a significant sum is changing hands. Similar logic for 5 year extensions instead of 1 year extensions.

    • Inherited Work (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @08:50PM (#51498437) Journal

      This makes complete sense. The point of copyright is to make artists confident that they or their immediate heirs will be able to benefit from their works for a limited time.

      This does not make any sense at all. Why should the heirs of the artist be allowed to benefit from the artist's work? No other job provides benefits for heirs after the death of the worker unless that worker has saved some of their income and put it into a suitable savings vehicle.

      Artists should be recompensed under the same set of ideals. Copyright should be a fixed length regardless of the life of the author. This should be long enough that the creator will gain adequate recompense for the work but the current system is ridicuous. Why should a work created by an artist who dies immediately after creating it earn less than a similar work created by an artist who lives for 50 years after creating it?

      With fixed term copyright if the artist dies before the copyright expiration then, and only then, should the heirs inherit the copyright for the remaining term. If the copyright expires before the creator then either they can create more works or they can live off their savings. This is what everyone else has to do so why can't artists work under the same system?

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Why should "artists" be able to do that, but not the workers and engineers who worked on a road or bridges? Why can't their descendants collect royalties in perpetuity on their work?

        Because companies have abused copyright law for corporate monopoly and "artists" have got along for a free ride.

        The reason Pressler and the greedy shits at the Anne Frank Foundation are bleeding this for all its worth is because that foundation generates cash and if you look closely you may find that 'charitable foundation' cr
        • Engineers don't collect royalties on bridges in the first place, unless they have some insane contract. They don't own the bridge, they designed it under contract for people with lots of money (who do own it). The children of the people who own the bridge can, in fact, keep collecting money. The Rockefeller family is still tremendously wealthy.

          Copyrights are legally property, the same as sports cars or collectible stamps or gold bricks or bridges. If the parent dies, he can leave the copyright to his ch

          • by ebvwfbw ( 864834 )

            A copyright is just that, it grants YOU the right to make copies. YOU can delegate that to someone else. Certainly once YOU die, your right to makes copies should die as well. There should be a limit, say 20 years for a copyright. After that, it's public domain.

            I agree with the proponents, why should we grant some liberal arts people special privilege? Why are they any better than anyone else? What they did is work. In your analogy, the copy they made for example the first hardback edition is the same as th

      • This does not make any sense at all. Why should the heirs of the artist be allowed to benefit from the artist's work? No other job provides benefits for heirs after the death of the worker unless that worker has saved some of their income and put it into a suitable savings vehicle.

        This is much too narrow a view.

        My father's farm has been in the family for two hundred years. No one has ever questioned a son's right to benefit from his inheritance --- that has always been the whole purpose of the thing. Why should the inheritance of intangible property be treated any differently?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Why should the inheritance of intangible property be treated any differently?

          Because it is not property. It is merely a contract between the society and the artist.

        • And the son pays property tax on it. If they want Intellectual Property to be forever, then let them pay taxes on it.
        • Why should the inheritance of intangible property be treated any differently?

          You are making the wrong comparison. Intangible "property" is not property in the real world in which we live, it is simply an artificial legal construct which society created so that artists can make money from their work. If we started thinking about it as a way to reward for work instead of as property we would have a far better system.

    • This makes complete sense. The point of copyright is to make artists confident that they or their immediate heirs will be able to benefit from their works for a limited time. I'm sure that if Anne Frank knew that almost a century after her diary was written it would be available on a global network of electronic devices that hadn't been invented in her lifetime she would not have wrote the diary at all. I'm also sure that if her father had known that he would have definitely refused to publish it.

      The 95-year copyright term is a joke. You say, "The point of copyright is to make artists confident that they or their immediate heirs will be able to benefit from their works for a limited time..." That's not correct. The point of copyright is to encourage creation by giving artists the ability to earn a return on their investment of time, effort, and sometimes money.

      But the time value of money means that almost all of the value of a work will occur within the first twenty to thirty years.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        There are exceptions. I think Tolkien was one. But you are generally correct. However extended copyrights allow for derivative works to have considerably broader protection than if the copyright were not extended. Consider any series of books by an author...especially those by "house names", e.g. the Tom Swift series. They've now faded into irrelevance, but the "house name" that wrote the series was allowed to keep the entire cast of characters and environment under copyright for considerably over 20 y

    • Well, at least we in the USA can still read Mein Kampf.

  • and register itself as a non-profit organization in, oh I don't know, the Bahamas, or Liberia, or somewhere other than big-brotherland where it currently lives.

  • 1976 Copyright Act (Score:5, Informative)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @06:38PM (#51497615)

    But Anne Frank's Diary was published in 1947. Extending that copyright beyond the term in effect at the time it was published is a violation of the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto [wikipedia.org] laws.

    But then, IANAL and the Supreme Court would probably be overruled by Mickey Mouse anyway.

    • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @06:43PM (#51497669) Homepage
      Court already ruled essentially in Eldred https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eldred_v._Ashcroft [wikipedia.org] that copyright can make public domain works return to being copyrighted.
      • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @08:24PM (#51498299)

        I think on the timeline of: A - Copyrighted, B - Copyright expired, C - Copyright extended by new law, violations of copyright between B and C are protected by ex post facto considerations, but copyright violations after time C are in violation of the law passed at that time, and therefore no longer ex post facto.

    • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @06:56PM (#51497769) Journal

      It's long been held that "ex post facto" only considers what the law is at the time the government claims you broke it. That's how the government tends to ban things, by outlawing "possession" rather than sale or creation. If you bought something legally that the government then bans, if you are possessing it then you're breaking the possession law right now, and ex post facto does not apply.

      Therefore if you make a copy right now of some item whose copyright term was extended, you're breaking the current law right now.

    • Well speaking of Mickey Mouse, it will never leave copyright in the US, as it was published after Mickey hit the market. It's rather naive to think that it will be released to the public domain in 2042, as before that time the copyright act will be changed (as it is every 25 years) to extend copyright to 100 years after publication.

      After all, we can't have any of Disney's movies enter into the public domain!
      • Well speaking of Mickey Mouse...

        Forget Mickey Mouse.

        The expiration of the copyright on Steamboat Willie gives you the right to produce derivatives based on Steamboat Willie and only Steamboat Willie. Eight minutes of silent-era sight gags with a synchronized sound track and a thin narrative thread. Walt Disney Animation Studios' Steamboat Willie [youtube.com]

        The character designs --- which is what the geek really wants --- are trademarked, and without them you do not have the Mouse in any recognizable form.

        Mickey Mouse appears as a character in over

    • Changing something that hasn't happened yet isn't prohibited.

      If a work entered public domain, and someone published it as such, then a copyright extension put it back under protection, the public-domain publisher could not be sued for infringement during the time that the work was in the public domain. If they keep publishing it once it was protected again, that'd be a separate offense.

    • Your Wikipedia article says in so many words that the ex post facto prohibition only applies to criminal cases:

      Over the years, when deciding ex post facto cases, the United States Supreme Court has referred repeatedly to its ruling in Calder v. Bull, in which Justice Samuel Chase held that the prohibition applied only to criminal matters, not civil matters.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Which is one reason why there is so much effort to get copyright violations treated as criminal matters. We've even seen paramilitary responses over copyright violations with DVD-Jon, Kim Dotcom and others - it's ridiculous especially in the first case. What was DVD-Jon going to do, throw his schoolbag at someone turning up to serve a summons?
    • But Anne Frank's Diary was published in 1947. Extending that copyright beyond the term in effect at the time it was published is a violation of the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws.

      The geek remains ignorant of the most fundamental distinctions between civil and criminal law.

      Over the years, when deciding ex post facto cases, the United States Supreme Court has referred repeatedly to its ruling in Calder v. Bull, in which Justice Samuel Chase held that the prohibition applied only to criminal matters, not civil matters...

      Ex post facto law [cornell.edu]

      Calder v. Bull, 3 U.S. 386 (1798) is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court decided four important points of constitutional law.

      First that the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution only applies to criminal acts, and then only if the law does one of four things: ''1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender.'' The decision restates this later as laws ''hat create, or aggregate, the crime; or encrease(sic) the punishment, or change the rules of evidence, for the purpose of conviction.''

      Calfer v. Bull [wikipedia.org]

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        The geek remains ignorant of the most fundamental distinctions between civil and criminal law.

        The copyright lobby is pushing very hard to get criminal law to do their dirty work and the taxpayers to pay for it so that's not unusual. Those stupid advertisements about copyright violation have been deliberately blurring the line for years.

    • This refer to criminal laws. The really question is how retroactive extension of copyright could possibly "promote the progress of science and useful arts".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 12, 2016 @06:38PM (#51497625)

    It is the Dutch version they removed. According to Dutch copyright it is in the public domain now. (70 years after the death of the author) Although, because is money to be made, this is also contested.

  • Those people sure are good at making millions off of other peoples content. They should focus on content that the rights holders want to be free.
    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      Under Dutch law and many other countries laws, it is public domain, or do you think that Anne Frank needs the money?

  • 2042 we hope the mouse needs more time real soon and that can get pushed back to 2050 or maybe even 2100

    • Or, who knows, they may even be able to pass the "forever less one day" proposal. (Yes, a former MPAA president actually wanted to do this.)

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @07:48PM (#51498105) Homepage Journal
    You know who let their thing go to public domain? Hitler. [npr.org] Just sayin'...

    On an editorial note, I would not have read the Diary of Anne Frank had I not been forced to in school, and 30 years of alcohol abuse and Prozac has mostly wiped away most of the memories of the books I was forced to read in school. So if any of my past English teachers are reading, yeah, thanks for that. And also, Herman Melville just wrote all that shit about the whale because he liked to hear himself talk. There. I said it. So whatever. Anne Frank can keep her damn copyright for all I care, and for all the good it'll do her.

    • Oh wait, that's still under copyright [wikipedia.org] too.. Damnit!

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Not quite so, there was a guy that became a US Senator for California (up until around 1970) who was sued for copyright violations by Hitler before Pearl Harbour.
      However the court action may have been to stop his efforts at showing with Hitler's own words that the Time "Man of the Year" was not so nice a guy as so many were saying. Also funny how being anti-fascist even after the war started in Europe was painted as "unAmerican" later on.

      Guys, please don't reply with a D vs R shitfight since McCarthy and
  • It is the US tail wagging the world's dog - and we need to start rejecting this over-reach. In this case the Wikipedia foundation should be off shore from the US and its servers likewise. The material should be held on the servers and either block access from US based IP addresses for specific material, or have a statement requiring you to identify that you are not violating US copyright law before you get access. All this would require is the database of files held to include fields for the copyright expir
    • It is the US tail wagging the world's dog - and we need to start rejecting this over-reach. In this case the Wikipedia foundation should be off shore from the US and its servers likewise.

      What good would that do? Copyright laws in Europe are at least as draconian as in the US, if not more so, and a lot less clear.

      The US at least allows the Wikimedia Foundation to avoid liability by complying with DMCA requests; in Europe, they may well be screwed altogether.

      • Find a country with a more reasonable attitude and good internet links. Not necessarily a null set. However that's not the point of my deeper point; the data should be held subject to a person reporting the country they are located in, and the restriction applied at that point. This would only require a country willing to allow this policy.
        • However that's not the point of my deeper point; the data should be held subject to a person reporting the country they are located in, and the restriction applied at that point. This would only require a country willing to allow this policy.

          Copyright law is governed by international treaties, and most countries are signatories to those treaties. People self-reporting their location isn't going to cut it.

          The few countries that are not subject to such treaties are so poor that they aren't going to waste

  • by ooloorie ( 4394035 ) on Friday February 12, 2016 @08:16PM (#51498255)
    The Anne Frank foundation has been gold-digging in Europe as well: http://www.theguardian.com/boo... [theguardian.com] This is a world-wide problem, and European publishers, lobbyists, politicians, and authors are just as much to blame for this as Disney and their supporters in Congress, if not more so.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      There are two foundations, don't confuse them. The Anne Frank Stichting in the Netherlands maintains the Anne Frank Huis. The Anne Frank Fonds in Switzerland has/had the copyright to the diary and uses the income that generates to fund charitable projects. You're talking about the Anne Frank Fonds, but you call it Anne Frank Foundation, which is the name of the other one (stichting == foundation; fonds == fund).

  • Fuck the government. We're owned, so there's no use trying to fool yourself about it.
  • He goes on to say, "Our removal serves as an excellent example of why the law should be changed to prevent repeated extensions of copyright terms."

    Make that retroactive, pretty please, so as to retroactively revoke the ridiculous retroactive extensions.

    The whole thing flies in the face of even libertarian notions of contract: that you only get what you shake for, in the first instance.

    Douglas Adams used to quip "I love deadlines. I love the sound they make as they whoosh past." Market capitalists love mar

  • The events in the diary took place decades before I was born, yet I will likely die before I have a chance to read it unencumbered in the public domain? Yeah, that makes sense, especially when the motivation of the diary had nothing at all to do with profit in the first place.

  • Isn't it funny how a lot of other things are "grandfathered" in - even electrical safety, but copyright rules are allowed to change everything and take things back out of the public domain.
    I see it as a sign of corruption and the biggest donor being seen as more important than the nation itself.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    And maybe then they will not treat the Palestinians with such cruelty.

  • Copyright should be perpetual.

    If one finds a piece of work interesting and wants to work with it, I see no reason why the intellectual property owner shouldn't be compensated. After all, the onwer has created value that has long last appeal.

    • by Sneftel ( 15416 )

      Are you suggesting we dig up Anne Frank and throw some money into her coffin? I have mixed feelings about that.

      • She most likely doesn't have a coffin... it's not known when exactly she died, or where she's buried, which is probably in a mass grave.

    • Im ok with a copyright being perpetual, but you have to pay to keep it...every 7 years you get a bill and that bill goes up exponentially, so by the time 70 years rolls around you have to pay 7 million to keep it... that will allow all sorts of abandoned works to go into the public domain while keeping certain others... like mickey mouse under protection

  • Copyright holders are worse than the Nazis!

    Can we go home now?

  • Nothing to be learned from it anyway. Should lock it up forever. (cough)

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