Calling Dutch Speakers about Cissy Van Marxveldt

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Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:39 pm Post

I just finished reading Melissa Müller's Anne Frank: The Biography and she mentioned that Cissy Van Marxveldt, a popular Dutch writer of stories for children influenced Anne's decision to keep her now-famous diary and shaped her writing style.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cissy_van_Marxveldt

This is what Wikipedia says about her:

Cissy van Marxvelt embarked on her literary career by writing articles and stories for Dutch magazines. In the year she married, she published the first book in what was to become a series of novels about a headstrong girl, Joop ter Heul. The books, similar in theme to Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, contain many diary entries and letters. They chart the fortunes of Joop, her sister and her school friends, from girlhood through marriage. The series consists of five volumes:
The High School Years of Joop ter Heul (1919)
Joop ter Heul's Problems (1921)
Joop ter Heul Gets Married (1923)
Joop and Her Boys (1925)
Joop ter Heul's Daughter (1946)
Van Marxvelt's Joop ter Heul novels for teenage girls had a notable influence on the writings of Anne Frank, who addressed her diary letters to an imaginary friend named Kitty. Anne Frank scholars, as well as Anne's friend Kitty Egyedi, are united in their belief that Frank's Kitty was based on a character created by Van Marxveldt: Kitty Francken, a friend of Joop's and a frequent recipient of her letters.


Five of Marxfeldt's books and two of her popular Joop ter Heul books were published before 1923 and are thus in the public domain. I thought about releasing an English version, deliberately stressing the tie with Anne Frank. But alas, as best I can tell, nothing she did has ever been translated into English. Of the 130 editions listed in WorldCat, all but about five are in Dutch. The others are in Fresian.

http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3AM ... first_page

Would anyone know what this is so? Are the stories so "Dutch" that no one else can appreciate them? I have trouble believing that. And there must be a lot of people around the world who're interested in Anne Frank and would love to read books she liked.

Maybe there's an opportunity there for someone who knows Dutch and can get the permission of her literary estate to introduce her to the English-speaking world and perhaps other languages.


Contact me via Literature and Latte if you're interested. I know no Dutch, but I'd be happy to help with the project.

--Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

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jtranter
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Wed Feb 12, 2014 11:36 am Post

"Five of Marxfeldt's books and two of her popular Joop ter Heul books were published before 1923 and are thus in the public domain."

Most copyright domains calculate living copyright from the date of the author's death, not the date of last publication. Then there's the Walt Disney corporation, who regularly bribes US congressmen ("the best congressional representatives money can buy") to extend the copyright term longer and longer and longer, so the lucrative Mickey Mouse franchise will never enter the public domain. This policy of corruption is then passed on to the poor countries who foolishly agree to the USA's Free Trade Terms. ("Free Trade" in cynicism quotes).

So be careful, and ask a copyright lawyer before you commit any money to this harebrained venture.

And never believe anything an American tells you.
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Wed Feb 12, 2014 11:36 am Post

"Five of Marxfeldt's books and two of her popular Joop ter Heul books were published before 1923 and are thus in the public domain."

Most copyright domains calculate living copyright from the date of the author's death, not the date of last publication. Then there's the Walt Disney corporation, who regularly bribes US congressmen ("the best congressional representatives money can buy") to extend the copyright term longer and longer and longer, so the lucrative Mickey Mouse franchise will never enter the public domain. This policy of corruption is then passed on to the poor countries who foolishly agree to the USA's Free Trade Terms. ("Free Trade" in cynicism quotes).

So be careful, and ask a copyright lawyer before you commit any money to this harebrained venture.

And never believe anything an American tells you.
John Tranter
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pigfender
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Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:07 pm Post

Copyright laws (and the durations in particular) vary by jurisdiction (as influenced and occasionally governed by international treaty). US copyright law is very convoluted mainly because they have had (for various periods) a distinction between published and unpublished works, and for those with and without copyright notices applied.

In particular, the '1923 rule' (which only applies to published works, anyway) is a purely US device.

Dutch law (see the Copyright Act 1912, art.37) holds that copyright subsists until 70 years after the authors death (actually, 70 years after the 1st Jan following their death). Of course, the owner of this intellectual property can grant whatever licence they like during that period (as long as it does not exceed their own rights), including waiving copyright entirely.

Cissy died in 1948. Assuming no early waiver exists, that means that unless there has been regulatory intervention on her estate's behalf, her books will remain protected until Jan 1st, 2019. Such intervention does occasionally happen... the (UK) copyright to Peter Pan subsists in perpetuity as a result of a specific piece of English legislation. JM Barrie left the rights to the book to the children's hospital Great Ormond Street, who successfully petitioned to have the rights continue as the royalties provide significant funds to support this charitable hospital.

Of course, that's just applicable in the Netherlands, although international treaties mean that those provisions are well reflected and respected in most other jurisdictions, so publication for any derivative works would be restricted to the handful of countries that don't play nice with others. Ironically, the US is one of them.

GOSH, for example, has pursued several lawsuits against US parties who try to apply the 1923 rule to Peter Pan (written in 1911, originally out of the normal position of life+50 in 1987, later extended to 2007 by the EU's move to life+70) while it was still subject to the in the normal copyright rules. GOSH lost some of those cases, if I recall correctly, but not without costing both sides a lot of time and money on each occasion. The confusion stems in part from the Berne Convention which basically says - gross oversimplification alert - that (a) parties should apply the local rules for the publication, not for the creation, and (b) those local rules should have at least life+50 in them. The US is happy to apply the local rules, but doesn't always apply life+50.

As JT points out, copyright law - especially cross jurisdiction - is both complicated and ever changing. When I first started studying the subject, UK law only protected for 50 years after the author's death... it's now 70 years (a fact I've ben known to forget from time to time :oops: ). The US is even more changeable as regulators make adjustments to reflect the changing reality of life. People are living longer (as are their inheritants) and producing copies of artworks is substantially easier (and essentially free) compared to the position in the early 1920s.

The notion of public domain works was designed to protect innovation, and preserve art... but it's actually one of the least effective ways of doing so in the modern era. I'm with Disney on this one. The argument of whether to extend protection for Snow White essentially boils down to the question 'who would I rather be allowed to make money from this?'. Personally, I'd prefer it was the people responsible to creating the art in the first place, their descendants, and the people who have carefully protected and cultivated that work for so long, as well as invested time and money in ensuring that it is still something that people actually care about watching so many decades later. The alternative is that the exact same money goes to... anyone who cares to press Ctrl+C and then Ctrl+V.

The end result? Pride and Prejudice becomes Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs becomes whatever perverted fantasy you can splice into it on iMovie that you'd probably prefer your kids didn't watch(*). Which approach better preserves the artwork? I know which I'd prefer.

* - to quote The New Statesman(**) "I'm pretty sure there isn't a dwarf called 'Horny'."
** - the TV series starring Rik Mayall, not the periodical.
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Wed Feb 12, 2014 4:38 pm Post

Which is why Disney's lawyers were the most intellectually formidable I ever met, in thirty years of dealing with lawyers in the world of intellectual property. (They're the only lawyers I ever encountered who regarded contracts as works of art as well as of logic.)
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Wed Feb 12, 2014 4:48 pm Post

Lots of past tense in there Hugh. Are the "normal lawyers" now?
Jaysen

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Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:10 pm Post

These days I try hard not to have anything to do with lawyers, unless they happen to be blood relatives. (You would not believe, for example, the trouble one can get into if Mickey's ears are not perfect circles… :oops: )
'Listen, some quiet night, when you've shirked your work that day. Do you hear
that distant, almost inaudible clicking sound? That's one of your
competitors, working away in the night in
Paris or London or Erie, PA.'

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Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:15 pm Post

You mean Micky must always be represented as 90* head on view? No profile?

They are lawyers. If they don't make mountains out of molehills how will them make payments on their bentley?
Jaysen

I have a wife and 2 kids that I can only attribute to a wiggle, a giggle, and the realization that she was out of my league so I might as well be happy with her as a friend. 26 years marriage later, I can't imagine life without her. -Me 10/7/09

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Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:43 pm Post

Mickey's ears always face you even if he is in profile.
Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 19.38.11.png
Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 19.38.11.png (55.1 KiB) Viewed 2368 times


Some lawyers are nice people, I promise. :D
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Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:46 pm Post

I call BS.

You decide to which point I refer.
Jaysen

I have a wife and 2 kids that I can only attribute to a wiggle, a giggle, and the realization that she was out of my league so I might as well be happy with her as a friend. 26 years marriage later, I can't imagine life without her. -Me 10/7/09

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pigfender
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Wed Feb 12, 2014 7:56 pm Post

Seriously though... some of them are nice people. They tend to be the unemployed ones, sure...
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Sat Feb 15, 2014 6:56 pm Post

So be careful, and ask a copyright lawyer before you commit any money to this harebrained venture.


Translating a popular Dutch author of children's literature is hardly harebrained and completing the entire series would require working with the estate, who I suspect would be quite happy to participate. A translation creates a new copyright. That'll bring in money--and lots of it--for many decades.

And never believe anything an American tells you


Why do I get the impression this Aussie poster would be even more upset discover that, genetically I've got the markers that mean I am Ashkenazi Jewish on my mother's side (or Kurdish/Druze, which is much less likely). That's what a 23andme profile just turned up. Stereotypes like that are dreadful whether based on nationality, race or sex. Someone down under needs to grow up.

-------

About that 1923 rule. I was discussing the very large U.S. market for an English translation. And that rule, I've been assured by a law school professor, is absolute. Attempts to exempt James Joyce's Ulysses on special grounds apparently came to naught.

I might add that I have little interest and no respect for Disney's lawyers. One IP lawyer told me of a time when the Academy Awards make some play on Disney characters in the ceremony. Disney's lawyers, he told me, stayed up all night working on a legal attack.

That's disgusting. That displays no sense of humor and certainly no interest in the fact that movie characters, including cartoon ones, often become owned by the culture as a whole, as in the use of "MIckey Mouse" to describe something poorly done and amateurish.

All that crassness, bullying, and obsession with copyright and trademark makes anything and everything Disney does a dreadful example for kids.

I won't get into what a former Disney employee told me about the draconian non-disclosure threats its employees function under. My own hunch (this person was afraid to give details) is that it's quite common for child molestations to take place at Disney's big locales, perhaps by characters rendered anonymous by their costumes. That's just a surmise, but it is the best explanation I can think of for those draconian threats. It certainly isn't the long waits for some rides. If you take your kids there, watch them like a hawk.

It's also ridiculous to pretend that grossly extended copyrights intended to protect Disney's bottom line benefit authors and creators as a whole. Historically, the vast majority of books go out of print after the first or second printing, never to be published again even though the author is long dead and any attempt to find the current rights holder will come up empty. Publishing their books through organizations such as Gutenberg gives what they've done a new life with no cost to anyone.

If fact, for me as a writer there'd be nothing more delightful that to someday become the modern equivalent of Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Jane Austin. They're writers who're still loved and enjoyed long after their deaths. That's literary immortality beats the socks off having a lazy, great-great-great-nephew collecting royalty checks long after my death and blowing the money on booze.

All this is beside the point. Does anyone know a Dutch writer with skills in English who might be interested in creating a translation. The Anne Frank connection alone should guarantee good sales, given a well-connected publisher. I know I'd love to read the books.

--Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

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Sat Feb 15, 2014 7:25 pm Post

Actually, I do. But you just (effectively) called me ridiculous and got all bold red type on me for expressing a personal opinion, despite the fact I'd spent a fair bit of time trying to explain the implications of a complex area of international law and copyright, and warn you about some of the pitfalls of making assumptions. Hearty debate, especially where polarised opinions exist, is fine. But dismissal of others' viewpoints as ridiculous? Well, that just makes me :(

The 1923 rule is not "absolute". Your law professor friend (I presume one of the rare academic experts in intellectual property law, rather than the legal subjects more traditionally studied at University) may have made assumptions about the type of work you were talking about. For example, in order to be covered by the 1923 rule, works must have been published prior to 1923. You may recall I said US copyright law draws a distinction between published and unpublished works. Unpublished works created prior to 1923 are not generally speaking covered by the exclusion. You may also be interested to note that any work published overseas in a language other than English have been deemed by the US courts as 'unpublished' and therefore not in the public domain.

And to show I'm a nice guy... I'd PM VDGriesdoorn on this forum who is from the Netherlands, I believe. I don't know if she'd be interested, but she's the most likely person i know who'd be able to connect you with someone who would.

But seriously... look in more detail at the copyright implications (or just ask permission).
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