The Copyright Fiasco Of ‘Mein Kampf’

Known as one of the most controversial books ever written, Mein Kampf or My Struggle in English, is the autobiography of Adolf Hitler. The two volume book was written while Hitler was in prison for a failed coup in Munich. Part autobiography, part political manifesto, Mein Kampf outlined Hitler’s beliefs and ideals. A strong theme throughout is that of “the Jewish peril” or in other words, why the Jewish people could be blamed for all the misfortune in Germany.

Hitler originally only wrote the book for the followers of National Socialism. However, once Hitler rose to power, the book grew in popularity. It was published in 11 languages and given to every newlywed couple and soldier at the front.

As with most copyrights, Hitler owned the copyright of Mein Kampf until the moment of his death. Normally from there, intelligent property would go to either the next in kin, or whoever was named in a remaining will. After his suicide in 1945, Hitler’s will stipulated that much of his property was to go to remaining family and friends. Instead of this, Bavaria, a state in southeastern Germany, seized all of Hitler’s assets, including the copyright of Mein Kampf.

Immediately, Bavaria agreed with the German government to ban the sale of the book in Germany. There was no law against owning it already, or trading old copys, so long as trading was not done to promote hatred and war.

In the United States, a copyright of Mein Kampf was seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The American copyright belonged to the U.S. government until it was bought by Houghton Mifflin. On average 15,000 copies are sold every year.


Source: Amazon

But what about all of the royalties? No one wanted to profit from Hitler’s message of hate, and royalties were given to charity, with some complicates. You can read more about that here. Admittedly, remaining members of Hitler’s family could make a claim for the royalties, but they don’t want it either.

According to German law, copyrights expire 70 years after the death of the author. In the case of Mein Kampf, that was January 1st, 2016. Now that it is in the public domain, Mein Kampf is being published for the first time in Germany since World War II. Though it being in the public domain likely won’t make the issue of handing out the royalties any less complicated.

What controversial books have you read?

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Featured image via Time