As I understand it, Hitler's book Mein Kampf was originally copyrighted by Hitler, but, after the war, the Allies gave the copyright to Bavaria. (Was this legal? I guess I should post that as a separate question.)

I just learned that Bavaria's copyright expired in 2016. I'd like to learn if there are any English translations that are also in the public domain.

In particular, I suspect an English version published by the Germans in 1940 for the planned invasion of England might be in the public domain.

A copy is available online here. It is described as open source, contributed by the community, suggesting it's in the public domain. However, I wondered if the government of Bavaria could claim ownership of this work as a derivative of the original, German language edition.

So my specific question is this: Is the English-version edition of Mein Kampf linked to in the paragraph above in the public domain?

  • Not the Allies gave the copyright to Bavaria, but Bavaria was Hitler's heir, having died two minutes after his wife (as was decided by a court).
    – glglgl
    Nov 21 '19 at 12:28

The link you refer to, has this description:

In 1940 the Germans decided they wanted to have an english language copy of Mein Kampf published for the invasion of Britain. They used a rough draft translation of Mein Kampf by James Murphy to form 90% of main body and translators in the NSDAP to create a final volume. Presented here is a photographic copy of this extremely rare volume.

Bavaria had copyright for the original text and shared copyright for derivatives, like translation. This expired at the end of 2015, which means they have have no copyright any more. (At least not in the EU).

Translators also obtain shared copyright for the translation. The rough draft translation was performed by James Murphy. He died in 1946, which means his copyright has expired in countries where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. In the United States this translation will be copyrighted until 2035.

This version was also partly translated by translators in the NSDAP. In Germany, authors keep their copyright, even if they work for an organisation. If one of them died in 1948 or later, the copyright will not be expired in the EU. But I assume we don't know who they were, so it does not matter in practice.

Based on this list of countries' copyright lengths, you could check in which countries besides the United States it is still copyrighted. In any case, if the copyright of James Murphy has expired, the copyright of Bavaria would also have been expired.

  • Great answer, though I'm a little confused about the U.S. copyright. If Mr. Murphy is deceased, who owns the copyright? Who would be in a position to sue for copyright infringement? Nov 3 '18 at 22:41
  • Copyright can be inherited, so his children or grandchildren may own it. The German publisher has sold the rights to publish it in the US and UK to other publishers. Publishers like Random House were therefore able to publish it even before 2016, despite Bavaria trying to stop the spreading worldwide. In case that deal was exclusive (I don't know), it might also be them who sue you when you publish it in the US.
    – wimh
    Nov 3 '18 at 23:34
  • 1
    Copyright can also be sold or transferred by written document, so almost any person or company might own the copyright. In many cases the records of the US copyright office can be searched to determine who owns a given copyright in the US, A fee is charged for such searches, and the info is not always found.. Nov 4 '18 at 5:32

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