2016 is being seen as the year of expiration of various copyrighted works including T.S. Eliot, Malcolm X and the dubious copyright controversy over Anne Frank’s Diary.[i] Recently, Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ (My Struggle) has been in tepid waters in Germany for having finished its copyright term and entering the public domain on January 1st, 2016.[ii] Adolf Hitler,the reigning name amongst various history books and an ‘academic fascination’ for those studying anti-Semitic philosophy, Nazi Era and World War epics, was known for his brutality towards the Jewish community and the preposterous inhumane treatment and dastardly methodologies used by him against them.
The book in question was Hitler’s take on political dogmas and ideologies which was originally printed and published in 1925, exactly eight years before Hitler came into power. As per the European Copyright Law, copyright in a given work expires 70 years after the death of its author. Although the regional government of Bavaria owned the copyright over the book, it had banned the reprinting of the same. The chosen term for a work under EU copyright law is 70 years from the demise of the author also known as post mortem auctoris. Considering 70 years have lapsed since 1925, the book is now out of copyright in Germany, implying that anyone can reprint it.A new academic version of the book is being published in 2016,along with a critical commentary by the Munich’s Institute of Contemporary History. Various academicians and historians have contended that this new version, which is being published across various countries in the world, would help them understand the Nazi era better and from innumerable angles.The book boasts of a whopping 2000 pages, crediting the immense hard work put in by scholars and academicians, who have provided around 5000 footnotes and observations to it.[iii]
As per the European copyright law, under the European Copyright Code, Article 1.1 details work in which copyright subsists i.e. copyright subsists in a work, that is to say, anyexpressionwithin the field of literature, art or sciencein so far as itconstitutes its author’s ownintellectual creation.[iv]The European Union (EU) Directive 93/98/EEC which sought to harmonise the term for copyright protection and related rights was replaced by the EU Directive 2006/116/EC, which ensured that a single duration for copyright and related rights was followed across the entire EU states.[v]
Mein Kampf is the book which highlights Hitler’s political ideas as well as gives an in depth account of themonstrosities suffered by the Jewish community at the hands of Hitler and his men, Holocaust survivors, families of the deceased who lost their lives during the abominable holocaust period, and others affected during his reign. Furthermore, it is considered as a noxious proof detailing Hitler’s profile, background, incidents leading to the rise of the man with the toothbrush moustache and the cult status accorded to the ‘swastika’.
[i]“What could have entered the Public Domain on January 1, 2016?”,Center for the Study of Public Domain, Available at: https://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2016/pre-1976. Also see, “Public Domain Day: January 1, 2016”, Center for the Study of Public Domain, Available at: http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday. (Last accessed on: Jan. 1, 2016).
[ii]“Copyright on Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ expires today”, Polly Mosendz, News Week, Jan. 1, 2016, Available at:http://www.newsweek.com/adolf-hitler-mein-kampf-new-years-day-410719. Also see, “Copyright of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ expires”, Times of India, Jan. 2, 2016, Available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/books/features/Copyright-of-Adolf-Hitlers-Mein-Kampf-expires/articleshow/50416589.cms. (Last accessed on: 2 January, 2016).
[iii]“The Future of Mein Kampf in a meme world”, The Conversation, Mar. 6, 2015, Available at: http://theconversation.com/the-future-of-mein-kampf-in-a-meme-world-38353. (Last accessed on: Jan. 3, 2016).
[iv] Article 1.1. (1), ‘Works’, European Copyright Code, Available at: http://www.copyrightcode.eu/index.php?websiteid=3. Article 1.1 (2), states that the following would come under the ambit of ‘field of literature, art or science within the meaning of Art. 1.1 (1): a. Written or spoken words, b. Musical compositions, c. Plays and choreographies, d. Paintings, graphics, photographs and sculptures, e. Films, f. Industrial and architectural designs, g. Computer programs, h. Collections, compilations and databases, Ibid.