As It Happens

Toronto author sends Anne Frank's diary to German politician after copyright complaints

After a German pirate politician complains she cannot have access to Anne Frank's diary because of bad copyright laws, a Toronto author comes up with a solution: to send her a hard copy of the book.

It seems odd that a Toronto author would go out of his way to send a copy of Anne Frank's diary by snail mail to a member of the European Parliament. After all, the book based on the diary of the Jewish Holocaust victim is widely available.

But John Degen still felt it was necessary to mail a copy of Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. It all started when the author and executive director of the Writers' Union of Canada spotted this tweet, on Tuesday: 

Julia Reda, a member of Germany's Pirate Party and an MEP, was complaining that the book should be in the public domain since it has been more than 70 years since Anne Frank's death. The Pirate Party advocates for reform of copyright and patent laws. 

Degen took issue with Reda's tweet. He explained his position to As It Happens host Carol Off.

"I'm not sure there's a more accessible and more available book in the world than the diary of Anne Frank. I wanted to prove that to her by walking 10 minutes from my office and buying it for her," Degen says.

The receipt from John Degen's purchase of Anne Frank's Diary at a local bookshop. He sent the book to Julia Reda, a Member of European Parliament and a German pirate.

Soon after Degen's offer to send the book to Reda, the politician blocked him on Twitter. Instead, he got a response from one of Reda's political staffers.

Earlier this year, the book was caught up in a European copyright battle after the charity foundation in her name argued the diary should still be covered under copyright.

In recent months, anti-copyright supporters have argued for the book to fall under public domain.

"The diary should be a powerful part of our collectively-shared public domain. Instead, the fragmented, varied rules about the duration of copyright across Europe has made the work inaccessible to so many potential readers," says the campaign's website for #ReadAnneDiary.

Julia Reda is a member of Germany's Pirate Party and a Member of European Parliament.

Degen says that anti-copyright supporters should consider the tragic circumstances around why the diary is out of copyright, instead of celebrating it. The German-Jewish teenager, was killed in a Nazi concentration camp.

"If Anne Frank had not been killed in 1945, no one would be celebrating her book entering the public domain right now. I think the Pirate Party of Germany chose the wrong book. I find it extremely offensive."

Three different editions of The Diary Of A Young Girl, Anne Frank's Diary, at a Toronto bookstore near John Degen's office.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?