World IP Day - Anne Frank & Geo-blocking Special

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Yes, it's that time of year again. That special day in the calendar we've all been waiting for, noses pressed against the glass, it's finally World IP day!  [Merpel has yet to decide if it should be "Merry World IP Day" or "Happy World IP Day."]

A group lead by Centrum Cyfrowe, Communia, and Kennisland have decided to celebrate the day by highlighting inconsistencies in copyright and geo-blocking.  According to the press release, 
"On Tuesday 26 April, World Intellectual Property Day, the original, Dutch-language version of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ will be published online at This is the first time internet users are able to read the original writings of Anne Frank online. However, this publication is only available in Poland as Anne Frank’s original writings are still protected by copyright in most member states of the European Union. With this publication of the original version of the diary Centrum Cyfrowe, Kennisland and the COMMUNIA International Association on the Public Domain seek to highlight the absurdly long duration of copyright in the EU, as well as the fact that, contrary to general assumptions, the duration of copyright is still not harmonised across the EU and the troubling fact of geo-blocking which creates boundaries online."
As covered previously in the IPKat (here and here), Anne Frank's works have proved contentious in recent years with attempts by the Anne Frank Fonds to trade mark ‘Le Journal d’Anne Frank,' and add her father as a co-author and extend the diary's copyright protection.  The posting of the diary in Poland adds an additional layer of debate in that of geoblocking (covered recently by the IPKat here and here.) [Merpel hastens to add - check out the comments as not everyone agrees with this.]
Image via Imflip

The case highlights the curious lack of copyright harmonisation across the EU, which goes against the single-market premise.  Under a single market, capital, goods and services are freely able to move. This freedom stems requires moving towards harmonisation in domestic regulations, lower barriers to trade and reduced restrictions on labour mobility, among others. The goal is to create a trade bloc which functions more like a single European economy, rather than a collection of smaller economies.  In theory, this creates a stronger economy that is able to compete internationally with other large economies such as the U.S. and China. In practice, well, geo-blocking is only one example of a number of contentious issues.

So, on this 2016 World IP Day, have a think about the wider implications of IP.  If you're interested in celebrating with others, WIPO has an excellent map of events around the world. If you're stuck at your desk, you can also catch up on last week's WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market through their media page here. ¡Feliz Día Mundial de la Propiedad Intelectual!

ETA 11:36 on 26/04/2016 with Merpel's second comment
World IP Day - Anne Frank & Geo-blocking Special World IP Day - Anne Frank & Geo-blocking Special Reviewed by Nicola Searle on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 Rating: 5


  1. What does this instance have to do with geo-blocking, a practice that relates to content licensing NOT different terms of protection of copyright works?!?

    I would expect that IPKat contributors avoided accepting passively shabby arguments put forward by people who clearly do not even grasp the meaning of key (and currently fashionable) concepts.

  2. I don't think that this is a geo-blocking issue. While geo-blocking is about segmenting the territorial scope of licences (ie preventing access and use of content *in-copyright*), here we are speaking of different terms of protection with the effect that the Diary of Anne Frank (similarly to other cases) is out-of-copyright in some Member States but not others. This means that if you want to make certain uses of the Diary in countries in which the term of protection has not yet expired you will need to seek a licence.

    The term of protection for copyright works has been harmonised. However, there have been certain transitional arrangements, including in some countries special provisions for works created in wartime, that have created as a result what can be seen in relation to the Diary of Anne Frank.

    Nothing surprising here. I would not go as far as speaking of internal market fragmentation or geo-blocking.

  3. The post did not suugest that this was a geoblocking issue.It simply said that this is an extra layer to consider in the digital single market i.e. the terms of protection. Nevertheless, this is not, though about any difference in the term of protection or about any transitional arrangement as Union law on this point is fully harmonised.
    However, it is about the fact that in the case of this most famous of works -there are three versions which are all different -versions A, B and C. One of those versions is in the public domain and the others are not.

  4. Interesting points - surely this is a case of different definitions of geo-blocking? As in the specific licensing issue Eleonora mentions versus a wider definition of geo-blocking as restricting content based on the user's location.

    I think this Anne Frank discussion still highlights a general lack of harmonisation in copyright, whether or not you agree with the press release quote.

  5. Eleanora Rosati, what you mention is a narrow understanding of the challenges related to geoblocking. We are trying to show that it is a broader issue. Geo-blocking is a burden and additional transactional cost no matter if you have to segment your licensing, or block access even though you are sharing Public Domain works. Europe has a strong policy and vision of the reuse potential (for creativity, innovation) of resources that are public (either as PSI or in the Public Domain). If we care about re-use, we need to tackle this problem.
    And from a user perspective copyright is not harmonised if you need to hire / consult a lawyer (which we did) in order to find out whether a work available in PD in Poland is also in PD elsewhere. We know it isn't in the Netherlands, but I wonder who can easily provide an answer for the other Member States?

  6. Yes, copyright term is harmonised in the EU and in any event this has nothing to do with geoblocking. Who is blocking it, anyway?

    It would actually be an important story if Poland were in breach of Directive 2006/116/EC, not to mention the Berne Convention.

    The IPKat is looking a bit out of sorts, this fine World IP Day.

  7. I would have thought Anne Frank's original writings are no longer copyright protected, since it is more than 70 years since her death. The edited version is of course a different matter.

  8. Geoblocking has a plain and immediately understandable meaning. In this case a work is freely accessible online in one member state of the EU but is not available in others. That is, access to the work is blocked based on the geographic location of the user. Regardless of the reasons behind this, it is clearly geoblocking.

    It is only possible to conclude that this isn't geoblocking if you rely on an overly academic or legal interpretation that ignores the real-life situation that is experienced by internet users attempting to access to the content.

  9. Dear Unknown,
    what has been contentious in the above comments is the use of a term "geoblocking". You are indeed correct that there are vast differences in term of protection and this has its consequences, but I am not sure if referring to "geoblocking" in this regard is exactly right (unless we agree that it is) as these are simply different copyright "regimes". Technically, you are right, in my opinion, that a user is "blocked" from "accessing" a work on a geographical basis.

  10. "Interesting points - surely this is a case of different definitions of geo-blocking?"

    In their press release, the activists have entirely new definition of "geo-blocking", Nicola, and this is not challenged in your blog post. Hence the comments. Access to a work cannot be said to have been blocked, if that work was never there in the first place.

    "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other"

  11. The use of Anne Frank is in very dubious taste. Perhaps the copyleft activists could have chosen a better example? As John Dengen of the Canadian Writers Union points out, they are tone-deaf.

    Why I bought Anne Frank's Diary for a German Pirate

    "Let me just repeat the essential facts of this situation, because I’m having a hard time believing them myself. A German Pirate politician thought it was a good idea to demand free access to The Diary of Anne Frank, which would have the effect of denying the Anne Frank Foundation revenue it uses for holocaust-related charitable causes in memory of Anne Frank.

    I note that Anne Frank herself would be in her late 80s today, but I guess that’s neither here nor there to the Pirates. Of course, the reason Anne Frank’s Diary is out of copyright at all, in any country, is because young Anne was killed in 1945. Had that not happened, her beautiful, gut-wrenching work would remain under copyright protection until her death by natural causes, and then another 70 years at least."

    ....anti-copyright zealotry has made them utterly tone-deaf to the horrendously insulting and offensive effect of choosing this particular work as the focus of their whining. Never mind that creator copyright is the foundation of a modest economy that is the very backbone of our shared culture, and that piracy (also here and here) and disingenuous anti-copyright lobbying are responsible for damaging segments of that economy, sometimes severely. The thing to really focus on here, I think, is that the $9.44 CDN I spent on the book this morning will help excellent charitable causes. If ever there was a book that should be bought over and over again, in large numbers, forever, it is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank."

  12. Many thanks for your comments, Andrew and the link to the article. Copyright is not designed to protect charities, no matter how noble their cause. Funding for cultural and charitable institutions is important, but it is not a copyright issue.

    The public domain exists so that the book can be read over and over again, in large numbers, forever.


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