Joseph Goebbels Estate Wins Copyright Suit Over Use Of Nazi's Diary In Biography

from the nazis-i-hate-these-guys dept

Decades later, the Nazis, or at least the estate of a long-dead Nazi, gets a win. In a case we had written about months ago, in which the estate of infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels sued Random House Germany over the inclusion of quotes from Goebbels' diary, claiming copyright infringement, we raised the story up as an example of why fair use rights are necessary for the sake of scholarly work. The idea that the estate of an historical figure could censor, or even put up a toll booth, between history and those that would learn from it has to be about as good of an example of what the originators of copyright didn't want as any. The whole point was to proliferate knowledge and the arts. I'm not sure why a Nazi's diary should even be afforded such protections in any respects, nevermind the estate of the dead Nazi be allowed to control the dissemination of history in this way.

The German courts appear to disagree, however, having found in the favor of the Goebbels estate.

The Munich district court ruled in favor of the estate's claims, although it pointed out that the royalty rights to Goebbles' writings would expire at the end of 2015, 70 years after his death. Random House intends to appeal the case at the German Supreme Court. If it is successful, [Random House's attorney Rainer] Dresen says, other media organizations could be examining the royalties they have been paying the Goebbels estate for their publications. "The court's ruling would declare the estate's position null and void, necessitating refunds," he says.
As Mike noted in the last post, there are so very many arguments against why this ruling shouldn't have occurred. The first is that Germany ought to have something like Fair Use protections, which would have tossed this whole thing out immediately. Does Germany really want the estate's of historical figures to control historical scholarship in this way? Do we really need to trot out the whole "those who don't learn from history are deemed to repeat it" mantra?

And beyond that, it's not even clear that the Goebbel's Estate has the rights it's been selling anyway. When the US seized the original publishing house, it took control of the publishing rights for Mein Kampf, so why not Goebbels' diary as well? On top of that, it turns out Goebbels may have sold his own publishing rights to the Nazi regime, meaning the Bavarian government would now be the ownership party, not his estate. If that's the case, the Bavarian government is playing very, very dumb.
Dresen has pointed to evidence from a journal entry from 1936 when Goebbels sold the rights to Nazi state publishers. He believes this should transfer the copyright to the Bavarian government. "Bavaria is not interested," he told Newsweek, "'Show me the author's contract' they said, knowing the archives were destroyed at the war's end."
Either way, pending the appeal, count this as a loss for historical scholarly work. And from a court in a country that really, really should know better than this.

Filed Under: copyright, diary, germany, history, joseph goebbels, research
Companies: random house


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:16am

    Yeah, like anybody should should be protecting anything that Nazy arsehole ever said.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:33am

      Re:

      If you do not understand how propaganda was used, and what is looks like, you will fall for propaganda, and wake up one day to the realization that the propagandist has led you to hell.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:39am

      Re:

      If you deny copyright protection to Nazi Arseholes be prepared for your protections to be denied when someone decides you are an arsehole too.

      Everyone needs to be treated equally, even if they are arseholes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:18am

    More concerned about symbols than deeds

    The trouble with Germanys current "anti-nazi" legislation is, that it's mostly a "anti-nazi-symbol" legislation.

    They should know better, but german politicians are currently trying to re-enact the GESTAPO (yes, they're not alone, most countries are trying to do exactly that), while depictions of the Hakenkreuz get investigated by the police, even if in a anti-nazi or historical context.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:05pm

      Re: More concerned about symbols than deeds

      Germany wants to quit being reminded of their Nazi past. It makes it too hard to repeat in the future.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:18am

    Nazi, of course. Typo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:37am

    Without copyright lasting until 70 years after their death, long-dead historical war criminals would have no reason to be quoted saying anything or write their propaganda down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 9:00am

      Re:

      Which maybe a good thing ... perhaps that's a good reason to abolish these copy protection laws.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:09pm

      Re:

      Copyright boosters keep claiming that with without copyright nothing would be created. OK then, copyright's to blame for the creation of Nazism and Nazi propaganda.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:37am

    Nice to know that this is the sort of people that antidirt identifies with. Not surprising, but still nice to know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 7:07am

      Re:

      Typical ill informed knee jerk response from an obvious shill who is uninterested in discussing copyright and consequences thereof.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re:

        And M. Slonecker rises to the defense of his hero, what a surprise.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:19am

          Re: Re: Re:

          No idea who that person is.
          Perhaps you could explain your rational for making exceptions to copyright law, please address the litigation discussed in this thread.
          -thx

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            A Different Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 1:14pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            If Goebbels hadn't managed to kill himself after being appointed Reich Chancellor (by Hitler, at his suicide), he most certainly would have been hanged at Nuremberg. Interesting set of priorities when it's OK to end someone's life, but not his copyright.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 4:51pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Interesting point.
              Does Germany have laws similar to the US wrt rights being taken away (sometimes temporarily) from felons?
              IIRC, some states disallow felons to profit from their crimes, whether it be book, movie or other such deals, the profits go to the victims, (and the state?).
              But since this scumbag killed himself before being convicted, his estate retains the copyright. That's messed up.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Nastybutler77 (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 10:02am

      Re:

      Maybe you should try reading a post before commenting in it. You know, so you don't come off as a complete dipshit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 10:16am

        Re: Re:

        He said anti-dirt. I'm assuming he meant anti-techdirt, either way it's fairly clear he wasn't talking about techdirt.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 7:07am

    Does the Goebbels Estate take on any responsibility for Goebbels other actions, or just the ones where they get money?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 4:53pm

      Re:

      A reasonable person would not want blood money and would donate it to a worthy cause ... but there not many reasonable people are there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 5:37pm

        Is it possible there are people in Germany are like those in the US...

        ...desperate to make and keep money, since poverty is, itself a terrible crime?

        Last I understood, being poor means the rich can do whatever they want with you, should their eyes and whims turn your way.

        Here in the US, the cops can also do what they want with the poor, where the rich can avenge themselves in court.

        It sucks to be poor, enough that people will murder, destroy huge estates or exploit the people to become rich.

        I think the Goebbels affair is symptomatic of a much greater problem.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 7:10am

    Godwin overload, right from the title!

    Ahem. Can't you think of these poor, poor Goebbels heirs? How else will they put food on their tables? /dsrc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      RD, 13 Jul 2015 @ 7:23am

      Re:

      Thats right! After all, without the exclusive restrictions that copyright provides, how else would Goebbels be incentivized to create more works??

      Perhaps one of our regulars can enlighten us all as to how this spurs creation again?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 4:55pm

        Re: Re:

        Well ....
        He certainly will rise up from the grave and start WWIII so that he can write again!
        What messed up logic that is.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:15pm

        Re: Re:

        "Thats right! After all, without the exclusive restrictions that copyright provides, how else would Goebbels be incentivized to create more works??"

        Without copyright what incentive would there be for the creation of future evil?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 8:07am

    "I'm not sure why a Nazi's diary should even be afforded such protections"

    Leave it to Timothy Geigner to make such a ridiculous comment. Just because it's the estate of a Nazi means that there should be no protections? That's such a ridiculous idea that Timothy should be ashamed of himself. Everyone is afforded the rights granted to him by copyright. Just because you do not agree with that person, even if that person is a Nazi, does not mean that that person isn't afforded protections under the copyright law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 8:14am

      Re:

      If we're going to play the "letter of the law" card, then it's worth asking the question: did automatic copyright exist in Germany in the 1940s?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 10:18am

        Re: Re:

        Not sure about writings but the GEMA (company to collect money for musicians and such) was founded in 1933. It still exists so the Nazis did know how to copyright.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jameshogg (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 8:22am

      Re:

      Yes. Nazis did indeed have copyrights like anyone else. And it is precisely those copyrights that were used to prevent English translations of Mein Kampf from circulating in America - the result of which kept the West in ignorance of fascism and anti-semitism until Europe mutated into hell.

      It is because they had copyrights that copyright must be removed from society.

      I don't want to even begin to imagine what hell humanity would have gone through if either the Bible or the Koran were copyrighted. The Bible was forbidden from being translated from Hebrew to English, and Islamofascists to this day insist the Koran should only be recited in Arabic. These are de facto copyrights in a way. And should be met with nothing other than condemnation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 9:00am

      Re:

      Hey, dumbass, read the line in the context of the rest of the graf and it should be more clear. The point was that protecting a Nazi's diary that was NOT intended for public release does nothing to promote the creation of other creative works. The point was the diary, not the fact he was a Nazi.

      Try again....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Michael, 13 Jul 2015 @ 9:34am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, it seems like a diary is probably not something that needs copyright incentives.

        On the other hand, there is something just plain wrong that this guy's "work" has been afforded the same protections as that of Anne Frank - who's diary will go into the public domain right along side this one.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 12:52pm

      I'm not sure why estates should be afforded such protections.

      Once the original author dies, we've got mountains upon mountains of historical examples of how people who follow up on another's work is subject to Sturgeon's observation. So allowing the estate to live off the copyright fails to promote useful arts and science.

      We have Disney to thank for our ridiculously overextended copyright limits.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jameshogg (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 8:15am

    So that's how you prevent the Enigma code from being cracked. You copyright all the content that's being encrypted and say any translation from breaking the code is an infringement.

    Yeah. Take THAT Alan Turing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustShutUpAndObey, 13 Jul 2015 @ 8:21am

    So many insightful comments

    My mouse is tired from clicking on all the "insightful" buttons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 13 Jul 2015 @ 9:36am

      Re: So many insightful comments

      You need to stop anyway.

      I have a US patent on a process for identification of multiple comments on a single article as insightful via a human interface device that you have probably violated.

      If you would like a license, we should talk.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 8:54am

    Because if it weren't for copyright what incentive would the Nazis have to have existed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 9:54am

    what makes you say the courts there 'should no better'? they have just screwed the Greeks again, so it appears they have learned nothing much. although they didn't use any bombs or bullets this time, they used a far more powerful weapon in the shape of money. and the rest of the EU, that joined to end this sort of single nation calling the shots, Germany is there at the front, doing the opposite!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rikuo, 13 Jul 2015 @ 10:36am

    "The Munich district court ruled in favor of the estate's claims, although it pointed out that the royalty rights to Goebbles' writings would expire at the end of 2015, 70 years after his death."

    So the estate are getting only about five/six months of copyright protection out of this ruling? Why bother suing in the first place, if that's all they would have gotten?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:33am

    As a Russian, I'm going to infringe. Let's see if the history repeats itself as a farce.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 12:06pm

    unless of course the courts are full of neo Nazis. Had to be said as I am sure many of us are thinking it, what with the rise of neo Nazis in the Ukraine government

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 12:43pm

    Let's go back to original copyright

    This is another good reason to go back to original copyright, 14 years, plus a 14-year renewal. 28 years, Pow! it's in the public domain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 6:19pm

    Abolish Copyright

    Period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 10:12pm

    What? They didnt had copyright on rocket tech, why would they have on propaganda?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2015 @ 11:16pm

    There shouldn't be a Goebbels Estate in the first place!

    Given the magnitude of his crimes there shouldn't be a Goebbels estate in the first place. There is an effectively infinite debt owed to his multitude of victims.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Stephen, 14 Jul 2015 @ 3:35am

      Re: There shouldn't be a Goebbels Estate in the first place!

      "Given the magnitude of his crimes there shouldn't be a Goebbels estate in the first place!."

      Now you sound as cruel and vindictive as the Nazis themselves!

      What crime did the families of the Nazis commit that THEY should be penalised for the crimes of their relative?

      (Goebbels and his immediate family committed suicide before the Nazis' surrender, but he had five siblings and assorted other relations, some of whom survived the war.)

      Next thing you'll be telling us Osama bin Laden's family should be penalised for the crime of being related to the guy who planned 9/11.

      Go read the US Constitution and ask why the US founding fathers abolished "corruption of blood" for the crime of treason in art. 3, sec. 3.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2015 @ 7:09am

        Re: Re: There shouldn't be a Goebbels Estate in the first place!

        Possibly OP was addressing the benefit from crime aspect of this thread and that said benefits should not be allowed. Where did OP say anything about punishment of the heirs?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Pragmatic, 14 Jul 2015 @ 7:27am

          Re: Re: Re: There shouldn't be a Goebbels Estate in the first place!

          To Stephen, not being able to benefit from an unreasonable copyright regime that treats a temporary monopoly privilege as a property right IS punishment. It's how maximalists think.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Stephen, 14 Jul 2015 @ 12:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: There shouldn't be a Goebbels Estate in the first place!

            ...not being able to benefit from an unreasonable copyright regime that treats a temporary monopoly privilege as a property right IS punishment. It's how maximalists think.
            Not quite sure what you're on about.

            That said, you do realise that there is more to the estate of a person than copyright?

            By demanding there be no Goebbels estate the original OP was demanding the relatives of Joseph Goebbels were not entitled to ANY of the property of Goebbels at all, copyright rights or otherwise.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Stephen, 14 Jul 2015 @ 11:50am

          Re: Re: Re: There shouldn't be a Goebbels Estate in the first place!

          Where did OP say anything about punishment of the heirs?
          By demanding there be no Goebbels estate. The beneficiaries of such an estate would be the relatives of Joseph Goebbels.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Jul 2015 @ 12:05pm

            The beneficiaries of the Goebbels Estate

            Why would they have to gain from Goebbels being a war criminal?

            Unless Goebbels was a profound literist, the only value of his diaries and notes is that they are associated with a war criminal and one of Hitler's inner circle.

            Can someone explain to me why anyone should be able to financially benefit from control of such documents?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Uriel-238 (profile), 14 Jul 2015 @ 12:07pm

            You could be talking about Goebbels' extensive collection of looted art.

            Given that he rightfully stole the art, I suppose that his relatives have the right by spoils of war.

            Because Germans are a looty bunch or something?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2015 @ 5:47pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: There shouldn't be a Goebbels Estate in the first place!

            "By demanding there be no Goebbels estate. "

            And this is considered punishment?
            Wow, it's soooo harsh!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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