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Censorship The Media

Joseph Goebbels' Estate Sues Publisher Over Diary Excerpt Royalties 301

wabrandsma writes with this from The Guardian: The estate of Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's minister of propaganda, is taking legal action against the publisher Random House over a new biography, claiming payment for the use of extracts from his diaries. Peter Longerich's biography of Goebbels is to be published in May (Random House/ Siedler). Longerich, who is the professor at Royal Holloway's Holocaust Research Centre, maintains this case has important censorship implications. 'If you accept that a private person controls the rights to Goebbels' diaries, then – theoretically – you give this person the right to control research,' he said.
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Joseph Goebbels' Estate Sues Publisher Over Diary Excerpt Royalties

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  • Unless (Score:5, Interesting)

    by captnjohnny1618 ( 3954863 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:27PM (#49502343)
    Up front confession: haven't read the article, but unless the diaries are in the public domain, isn't this pretty cut and dry? If the diaries are in private hands, they're in private hands and you need permission to use their contents.
    • Re:Unless (Score:4, Insightful)

      by captnjohnny1618 ( 3954863 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:34PM (#49502365)
      FTA: the diaries "remain in copyright until the end of 2015. Copies are in public libraries."

      Just wait a year and then there REALLY won't be an issue. There isn't a clause in the legal code about whether or not a horrible human being can or can't get a copyright, so until there's a court decision (which seems like flirting with what can and can't be said... Which seems like free speech) this case seems extra baseless. The comment that this has implications on research seems misplaced to me. Am I missing something?
      • Re:Unless (Score:5, Interesting)

        by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:43PM (#49502409)

        In the US there are plenty of legal codes that do not allow a criminal to make money from their crimes, such as a mass murderer making money from publishing a autobiography

        • Re:Unless (Score:5, Interesting)

          by captnjohnny1618 ( 3954863 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:56PM (#49502467)
          Question that is to somewhat be annoying: but other's can publish biographies and make movies about their crimes? Seems like all movies that profit off of heinous acts should have to go to repay the victims of their crimes. I know that's not practical but if we're going to draw a line, seems kinda arbitrary to me. I'm not a legal expert though (no legal qualifications at all whatsoever actually. hah!)
          • Seems like all movies that profit off of heinous acts should have to go to repay the victims of their crimes.

            In ALL cases, every single one, EVER - victims became victims cause nobody heard or acted upon their cries for help.
            Victims are acutely aware of that.

            And they are aware of how valuable and invaluable it is to just have someone tell their story to the world.
            Even if it is told badly. Like with "Mississippi Burning".
            Which beats almost every single movie about Vietnam war - a war that was totally only about Americans and how THEY suffered.

            Which again beats every single movie NOT made about Jeju uprising, [wikipedia.org] regard

        • I don't think this would apply.
          dead guy before capture.
          private family journals belonging to an estate
          "crime does not pay royalty's" did not come into effect I think until the late 50's.

          • I don't think this would apply.
            dead guy before capture.
            private family journals belonging to an estate
            "crime does not pay royalty's" did not come into effect I think until the late 50's.

            It wouldn't matter when they came into effect, it wouldn't matter if it happened yesterday.

            A law that says "you can't make money from this" doesn't mean "anyone can copy your stuff for free".

        • by dwye ( 1127395 )

          The problem with your statement is that it is irrelevant, as the suit is against the German Random House (presumably a subsidiary of a Random House holding company, rather than an independent company sharing the same name) in Germany. Thus, no law but German applies in this case. Definitely not US laws passed after the rights passed from the criminal to whoever are his heirs.

          If this were done in the UK, the estate could very well win, and then Parliament pass a law that no member of the Nazi inner circle

        • by tsotha ( 720379 )
          As far as I know Goebbels was never charged with a crime.
        • "In the US there are plenty of legal codes that do not allow a criminal to make money from their crimes, such as a mass murderer making money from publishing a autobiography"

          Sure, for _convicted_ criminals, not those who commit suicide before any trial.

      • FTA: the diaries "remain in copyright until the end of 2015. Copies are in public libraries." Just wait a year and then there REALLY won't be an issue. There isn't a clause in the legal code about whether or not a horrible human being can or can't get a copyright, so until there's a court decision (which seems like flirting with what can and can't be said... Which seems like free speech) this case seems extra baseless. The comment that this has implications on research seems misplaced to me. Am I missing s

    • Re:Unless (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:35PM (#49502369) Homepage

      Just because you own the diary, does not mean you own the contents. It is pretty clear what happens to the assets of criminals, especially with regard to crimes against humanity and especially when those assets have value derived from the commitment of those crimes. The content is public domain and any attempt to derive individual profit by claiming ownership of the content tend to place the person claiming that as also sharing the liability for how the value was derived for that content.

      • It is pretty clear what happens to the assets of criminals

        When you lose a war utterly, your property is what the victor says it is. The property of someone as infamous as him is as forfeit as his life.

      • off topic indirectly : Doctor something or another ( the real bad nazi doctor in a death camp ) has a ton of research done on his victims, including brain fluid amounts. in the 90's it was ruled that data could not be used. for what reason I'll never know. but the data was valid data.

        • off topic indirectly : Doctor something or another ( the real bad nazi doctor in a death camp ) has a ton of research done on his victims, including brain fluid amounts. in the 90's it was ruled that data could not be used. for what reason I'll never know. but the data was valid data.

          Mengele

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J... [wikipedia.org]

          and btw talk about instant godwin

      • by DaHat ( 247651 )

        It is pretty clear what happens to the assets of criminals, especially with regard to crimes against humanity and especially when those assets have value derived from the commitment of those crimes.

        Sorta... if you go on a killing spree, are convicted then try to sell your story you are going to have some legal problems & prohibitions.

        If however while waiting for arrest/trial end up dead (either at the hands of the police or your own), anyone calling you a 'murder' would be at risk of suit a defamation s

      • by tsotha ( 720379 )
        No, that's not really how it works. The laws that prevent people from making money as a result of their crimes require a conviction.
      • by u38cg ( 607297 )
        A post more devoid of legal knowledge I have yet to see on Slashdot, and that's saying something.
    • Up front confession: haven't read the article, but unless the diaries are in the public domain, isn't this pretty cut and dry?

      In the USA there would also be the possibility of the extracts being fair use.

    • They are not stealing the content. They are quoting with attribution in a scholarly work. There is no country in the world that does not allow you to quote someone else.
    • by dala1 ( 1842368 )

      I don't think so. It's fair use to use snippets of a work for scholarship or research, and I think the biography of a historical figure would count.

  • Son of Sam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:27PM (#49502345)

    Doesn't Germany have the equivilent of a Son of Sam law where criminals and their heirs can't earn a profit from their heinous acts?

    • don't know, but their are similar laws prior to the sun of sam laws in the late 60's and i think in the late 50's too

    • That would not prevent anyone else from profiting. And owning the copyright does not profit the owners if they are not allowed to use it to make money.
      • This.

        Making a profit from writing a book about your criminal life or the criminal rife of your relatives is illegal.
        Making a profit from writing a book about someone else's criminal life is just good business.

        • by tsotha ( 720379 )

          Making a profit from writing a book about your criminal life or the criminal rife of your relatives is illegal.

          Maybe, depending on the jurisdiction. In any case I've never heard of a "Son of Sam" law that doesn't require an actual conviction, something Goebbels was too dead to get.

    • Doesn't Germany have the equivilent of a Son of Sam law where criminals and their heirs can't earn a profit from their heinous acts?

      Did those laws exist in 1945?

      Or does Germany allow new laws to be passed to make formally legal behavior illegal, after the fact?

    • by Tom ( 822 )

      But the act in question here would be the writing of a dictionary, and even in the most totalitarian states, that is not a crime.

  • by user no. 590291 ( 590291 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:44PM (#49502415)
    Takes "copyright Nazis" to a whole new level. Since Goebbel's diaries were associated with his crimes (as others have pointed out), I hope this doesn't get far. There is no reason his descendants should profit from his notoriety.
    • He has no direct descendants; he poisoned his 6 kids before he and his wife committed suicide.

      So Goebbels wasn't all bad in the end - after all, he did kill Goebbels.

      • You're right -- I should have said "heirs," not descendants. I'm really surprised as part of denazification that any property rights of Nazi officials weren't legally stripped.
        • "No man is above the law and no man is below it".
          It's convenient to label some people we don't like as complete outlaws but it's a sign of barbarism that just leads to things like rounding up and killing minorities which is the sort of thing we fought a war against people such as Goebbels to stop.
      • He has no direct descendants; he poisoned his 6 kids before he and his wife committed suicide.

        So Goebbels wasn't all bad in the end - after all, he did kill Goebbels.

        The eldest child was 12 when she was poisoned, along with her siblings. His children could hardly be considered guilty of anything.

        The guy was bad news. Even killing himself hardly qualifies as an act of redemption.

    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      But if Goebbels' heirs don't have an exclusive right to the diaries, then what incentive does Goebbels have to write diaries? We must continue to grant and enforce this monopoly, or else Goebbels' lack of return for his hard work will cause him to give up and get a job as a dishwasher. Is that the kind of world you want to live in?!

    • Just the headline shocked me: That Josef Goebbels has an estate? Does Adolf Hitler have one, too?

      And what else does this Josef Goebbels estate do? Sponsor charitable picnics with a dubious subliminal political message? Maybe burn some swastikas on hilltops?

      In my opinion, the estate should have been liquidated in the early years after the end of WWII, and the funds distributed to victims of concentration camps.

  • rule of law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NostalgiaForInfinity ( 4001831 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @07:58PM (#49502473)

    Longerich maintains this case has important censorship implications. “If you accept that a private person controls the rights to Goebbels’ diaries, then – theoretically – you give this person the right to control research,” he said.

    A private person controls the rights to Goebbels' diaries until a court of law declares otherwise or they fall into the public domain for some other reason. Courts should have done this in the aftermath of WWII, but Germans wanted these copyrights to remain valid in order to control such writings. The writings could also have come into the public domain as part of some settlement to civil claims against the Goebbels estate. But since neither seems to have happened, the copyright still appears to be valid.

    Arguing as if "research" should be exempted from the usual rule of law is particularly embarrassing for a German professor studying the Holocaust, since many atrocities were committed in the Third Reich because German academics considered themselves above the law and got away with it.

    If Longerich can't make a convincing argument that these works are in the public domain or that he falls under a well-defined legal exemption, he can join the rest of us and work towards shorter copyright terms, broader fair use exemptions, and less draconian laws. Of course, he could also demonstrate good will by licensing his own works under a CC license.

    • by kraut ( 2788 )

      Longerich maintains this case has important censorship implications. “If you accept that a private person controls the rights to Goebbels’ diaries, then – theoretically – you give this person the right to control research,” he said.

      A private person controls the rights to Goebbels' diaries until a court of law declares otherwise or they fall into the public domain for some other reason. Courts should have done this in the aftermath of WWII, but Germans wanted these copyrights to remain valid in order to control such writings.

      The drive for essentially infinite copyrights comes mainly from the Walt Disney Corporations and the rest of the US Media. Germany has perfectly effective legal sanctions in place to prohibit the distribution of Nazi propaganda - personally I think they're misguided, but they certainly doesn't rely on copyright law.

      Arguing as if "research" should be exempted from the usual rule of law is particularly embarrassing for a German professor studying the Holocaust, since many atrocities were committed in the Third Reich because German academics considered themselves above the law and got away with it.

      a) research isn't affected by copyright in the same way as publication
      b) The Third Reich was, on the whole, scrupulously legal. Once you have absolute power, passing laws to make your atrocities

    • Research requires you to be able to buy a copy and read it, so you may use the information held in it. That's the case with lots of works out there, such as all scientific research publications. They all fall under copyright, which doesn't seem to hinder research all too much. Sure public domain and online access may be convenient, you can instead walk over to your local university library and read it there.

      Copying and republishing excerpts from another work may be restricted under copyright, or may fall un

      • Research requires you to be able to buy a copy and read it, so you may use the information held in it. That's the case with lots of works out there, such as all scientific research publications. They all fall under copyright, which doesn't seem to hinder research all too much.

        That's the point, right? If you're not allowed to publish because copyright, then that will hinder the next person's research.

        • That's not what I said or meant.

          You naturally hold the copyrights to your own work - so you can always publish it any way you like.

          However if you start quoting other people's work in your own work, you may need a copyright license for those people's works - unless the quotes are so short they fall under fair use policies or so. And that appears to be the case here: the author used so much of someone else's copyrighted works (the diary of Goebbels in this case), that the copyright holders (Goebbels' estate)

  • by jonsmirl ( 114798 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @08:03PM (#49502493) Homepage

    'Initially, he feared that Schacht would take out an injunction against the book, preventing its publication altogether. Determined to avoid the destruction of any books “on the grounds of a claim from Goebbels”, he agreed to pay her 1% of the net retail price.

    He said: “When she wanted to cash in on that agreement, I said that agreement is null and void It’s against the moral rights You haven’t been entitled to sell me any words as those words lie within the Bavarian government.”'

    The author agreed to pay a 1% royalty and then reneged when the heir tried to collect. Of course that triggered a lawsuit.

  • by Jonathan P. Bennett ( 2872425 ) on Saturday April 18, 2015 @08:49PM (#49502659)
    It seems that the bigger problem here is that modern copyright is so unreasonably long, historical documents are still under copyright. Anything over the original 28 year copyright term is really robbing the next generation of history.
    • Brother, that's the truth.

      Even worse, is that we have works that have been in the public domain, sometimes for decades, and all of a sudden are protected under copyright again. It's a total scam and it's absolutely doing damage to future generations and to culture generally.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        have works that have been in the public domain, sometimes for decades, and all of a sudden are protected under copyright again

        There's a flute player in Australia who committed suicide due to the legal fallout from using a riff from a 1932 song with unenforced copyright owned by the Girl Guides (Girl Scouts). The copyright was bought by a record company who took legal action in 2009 against the song with that flute riff recorded in 1981.
        IP laws are well named - it's about pissing all over everything.

  • Uh-Oh . . . (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Did Nazi that coming . . . .

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    Longerich, who is the professor at Royal Holloway's Holocaust Research Centre, maintains this case has important censorship implications. 'If you accept that a private person controls the rights to Goebbels' diaries, then – theoretically – you give this person the right to control research,' he said.

    I don't agree with that assessment, especially when I watch the RIAA and MPAA go to work.

    His copyright hasn't expired, his family (or estate) has a right to control his works, and Longerich should pay up.
    However, I am basing this on US copyright law, I'm not sure if that applies here.
    http://www.copyright.gov/title... [copyright.gov]

    • US copyright law clearly allows documentaries to show a few snippets of copyrighted text as fair use.
  • Isn't that the length of copyright under the Berne convention? If so, the copyright for the last diary entries expires this year. The term used to be life of author plus 50 years, and I think that was in effect when the document was written, so copyright has probably expired already.

    Also, I think the copyright belongs to the estate, not the person that purchased the dairies unless copyright was explicitly transferred with that purchase.

  • This sort of thing is precisely what the "Fair Use" excemption in copyright law is for. How can there even be a legal question about this, at least in US law for Random House?

    • Since the daughter of Hitler's finance minister is suing the publishers in Germany, it's German law that matters.

      IANAL, but... While the EU copyright directive allows states to legislate for Fair Use, it seems that German statute law does not include such a provision. However, German courts have in the past relied on provisions in the German Constitution which state that Art and Research are free, to allow some reuse of portions of a work (see paper [ssrn.com]). However it's not necessarily clear how the court might

  • I had always heard that German intellectual property was confiscated by the Allies as part of the surrender. For a senior Nazi like Goebbels, even a private diary should fall under that category.

    I guess I had heard wrong. Pity.

  • Freedom of information as well as freedom of speech are ruined when we allow a concept such as copyright to exist. To even suggest that the diary in question was an economic effort on the type of its dead author (may he roast in hell) or that those economic rights could somehow be transferred to other people after the author's death is just wrong. And frankly even the idea that German law can be respected when it once went so far astray is offensive in itself.
  • Random House should reply to this demand with "fuck off, you nazi cunt", and leave it up to a jury to decide whether Goebbels' heirs deserve any money.

    -jcr

  • by SlovakWakko ( 1025878 ) on Sunday April 19, 2015 @06:07AM (#49503921)
    And then asking for money for anything he ever did or said? That takes some arrogance. Anyway, I wouldn't fear to go to court over this. I can't see how a German court would rule in a way that would look like protecting the legacy of a big-time WW2 criminal. Ha, that would make for some interesting headlines in all major newspapers around the world :)
  • In about 2 weeks it's 70 years that Goebbels died.

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