Copyright struggle about "Mein Kampf"

Some of our readers may recall the IPKat's reports on the Zeitungszeugen case which concerned a copyright battle between the Bavarian State government and a British publisher relating to the re-publication of historical Nazi newspapers in an educational reprint series. (see the IPKat's earlier posts here, here and here). In that case, the Regional Court Munich I (Landgericht München I) - partly - rejected the Bavarian state government's attempt to use copyright laws to prevent educational reprints of Nazi newspapers 'Voelkischer Beobachter' and 'Der Angriff'.

It appears like history is repeating itself: according to numerous media reports, the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Institute of Contemporary History, "IfZ"), a German history institute based in Munich, has announced that it is preparing an annotated version of Adolf Hitler's controversial book "Mein Kampf" (in English: "My Struggle") for publication in Germany after 2015. Edith Raim , a historian with the IfZ is quoted as saying that an annotated version of Hitler's book would help to inform this and future generations about the evils of the dictator's racist ideologies.

It should be noted that "Mein Kampf" can only be re-published when the copyright held by the Bavarian State government (more precisely the Finance Ministry) will expire in 2015 - 70 years after Hitler's death. The Bavarian State government took over the rights of the main Nazi party publishing house Eher-Verlag after the end of World War II as part of the Allies' de-Nazification programme.

Not surprisingly, the Bavarian State government already announced in a statement that it will take a "restrictive position" and that it had not given the IfZ institute any permission to re-print the book. The statement says that in its view "...following the expiration of the copyright in 2015, the spreading of National-Socialist ideas in Germany will remain forbidden and punishable under the Criminal Code...". It further appears that the Bavarian State State government would seek to ban the re-publication in court. According to a report by the Bavarian Broadcasting Corpration, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Prof. Horst Möller, who is the Director of the IfZ, hopes to have completed his academic annotation before the copyright expires. He appears to hope that this would then allow further discussions with the Bavarian State government.

Looking at the Bavarian State government's strategy in the Zeitungszeugen case, this Kat wonders whether Prof. Möller might be a little too optimistic.
This Kat personally has a rather uneasy feeling about re-publishing any kind historic Nazi content which can be spread further - potentially without any annotations or comments, so why not allow an annotated scholarly version by an academic institution, in particular since the book can be bought in other countries? Looking at the outcome of the Zeitungszeugen case - where it appears that the Bavarian State government did not bring any criminal proceedings after the Munich Court's civil law decision - the question remains whether this matter should really be decided by the courts?

PS: The illustration shows the cover of the English translation of the book.
Copyright struggle about "Mein Kampf" Copyright struggle about "Mein Kampf" Reviewed by Birgit Clark on Thursday, February 11, 2010 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. The Bavarians obviously feel the need to police these publications - fair enough in a way


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