Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mein Kampf Copyright Battle & the Hitler 'Life Story' Option

The Book Germany Pledged to Suppress &  Hollywood Sought to Option. (Updated)

[Update:  This story was originally posted on 2-12-10.   Today, 1-25-12, we received reports that a Bavarian court has banned a British publisher from printing excepts of Hitler's manifesto in Germany.  Described by The New York Times as "the work that sowed the seeds of the Holocaust," in the early days of WWII, David O. Selznick scrambled to obtain Hitler's life story rights.]

By Lloyd J. Jassin

Springtime for Hitler by professorhojoIPK at reports that the German History Institute in Munich is planning to publish an annotated version of Adolf Hitler’s controversial Mein Kampf in 2015. [IPKat] Banned in Germany, the proposed publication date corresponds with the date the book falls into the public domain - seventy years after Hitler’s death. In response, the Bavarian State Government, which took over rights to the book at the end of World War II, has pledged to continue its efforts to suppress the book after its copyright expires. 

Hollywood's Hunt for Hitler Biopic Rights

The Institute's intention to publish Hitler's autobiographic rant in Germany recalls another Hitler copyright battle, a time when Hollywood scrambled to secure Hitler's copyright and life story rights.   

Three days after the start of W.W. II, legendary Hollywood producer David O. Selznick drafted a memo to story editor Katherine Brown, in which he demanded that she “Immediately upon your receipt of this wire, please drop everything and rush over to the Hays office and register [the titles to] Mein Kampf as well as anything else necessary to protect it, including Life of Adolph [sic] Hitler and My Life by Adolph Hitler.”

In his memo he stressed that “I hope there is no nonsense about whether this is copyrighted or non-copyrighted." The Hitler project, which Selznick hoped to attach Ben Hecht and Alfred Hitchcock to, was scuttled by the U.S. Government and, thus, never produced.

Parenthetically, Mel Brooks did not option Adolf Hitler’s life story rights for his musical (Springtime for Hitler) within a movie (The Producers), relying instead on the First Amendment.  Under the First Amendment, no one owns their life-story rights.

Memo from David O. Selznick (Modern Library)

The Modesto Bee (1/2/42), Louella O. Parsons' column, "Selznick Plans Film on Hitler from Psychopathic Standpoint"