Great moments in copyright law

Historians are disturbed over a “royalties claim being brought by the heirs of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, against the publisher Random House Germany.” A book being published this month quotes from Goebbels’s diaries, and scholars are worried of precedent being set which would not only entitle heirs to profit from war criminals’ writings, but also give them approval authority over the usage of excerpts, which could lead to permission being traded for more sympathetic treatment. Goebbels committed suicide during the last days of the Nazi regime. [Matthew Reisz, Inside Higher Ed] “Maybe history needs a Son of Sam Law” [@KenSherrill on Twitter]


  • maybe one way to shut them up would be to send them the bill for World War II.

  • “Counsel for the estate of Josef Goebbels” – great legal PR

  • I would start by demanding a death certificate to prove legally that he is actually dead, and argue that otherwise they have no standing. Obviously, I am not an actual lawyer.

  • This problem would not arise if the duration of copyright were not so insanely long. It should be cut back to no more than 20 years after the death of the author.

    In any case, the publication of excerpts in scholarly works and so forth should be, and when litigated, in the US at least, is, fair use. It is the fault of publishers that they have been reluctant to recognize this and demand that authors obtain their permission to do what they in fact have every legal right to do.

  • Perhaps an intervenor would be appropriate… file a claim against the estate for damages in WWII? If the estate wants to argue statute of limitations or jurisdiction, let it.

    Oh, Hitler won a copyright claim related to Mein Kampf in the late 1930s. i guess there is some precedent for Nazis and US copyright.

  • I posted a copy of Goebbels’s book-burning speech to my website about 15 years ago. If challenged, I intended to argue it was a prize of war, legitimately won by my father and several million colleagues.

  • It sounds like an argument is being made for the concept of corruption of blood, like when the King of England would deal with a traitor by punishment passing down through generations. I thought that idea had fallen into disrepute.

  • Via comment form:

    Just waiting for his relatives to pursue his “right to be forgotten.”