By Diego Naranjo

The chaotic and outdated copyright framework in the European Union (EU) negatively impacts citizens by placing absurd restrictions on use of cultural goods. These restrictions benefit neither authors nor  society in general. The European Commission (EC), in its quest to achieve a Digital Single Market, is aiming at reforming the situation and is trying to move towards a “modern, more European copyright”. So far, however, there is no sign of the necessary ambition that a real modernisation requires.

Today Centrum Cyfrowe, Communia, and Kennisland have highlighted how Europe’s copyfails affect the world famous book “The Diary of Anne Frank”. They have published the text at  www.annefrank.centrumcyfrowe.pl, because the book is now in public domain in Poland. However, before trying to download it have a look out your window first: Are you in Poland when accessing this website? You’re not? Sorry, you cannot legally access the content!

Due to the unharmonised patchwork that EU copyright law is, citizens across the EU enjoy different rights in different Member States. The specific reason in this case relates to the difference of publication dates of the original transcripts, of which Anne Frank is obviously the only author. A special provision for extended protection for works published posthumously (as it is the case of the original manuscripts of the Diary) was removed in Poland in 1952, while it exists in Dutch law. According to Communia’s analysis, Anne Frank’s original writings are in the public domain in Poland since 1 January 2016 but that copyright may have not expired in other countries, such as the Netherlands.

The case of the Diary of Anne Frank only shows one more of the many copyfails of the copyright EU framework, which the EU seems reluctant to meaningfully improve. If the EU really aims at having a Digital Single Market and a modern copyright regime which is suited to the digital world, then it needs to go beyond the timid patches that is proposing (text and data mining exception, freedom of panorama…) and create a robust copyright regime that benefits the public interest and ensures innovation and creativity in the XXI century.

Anne Frank and the Term of Copyright Protection: Why it’s Time to Move from Harmonisation to Unification (25.04.2016)
http://www.communia-association.org/2016/04/25/anne-frank-term-copyright-protection-time-move-harmonisation-unification/

EDRi joins open letter asking for an ambitious copyright reform (07.04.2016)
https://edri.org/edri-joins-open-letter-asking-for-an-ambitious-copyright-reform/

Copyright reform: Restoring the facade of a decrepit building (16.12.2015)
https://edri.org/copyright-reform-restoring-the-facadeof-a-decrepit-building/

Copyright for Creativity coalition: The Copyright Reform: Everyday I’m Hurdling – The EC’s latest hurdles on the race to the finish line (06.04.2016)
http://copyright4creativity.eu/2016/04/06/the-copyright-reform-everyday-im-hurdling-the-ecs-latest-hurdles-on-the-race-to-the-finish-line/