Publishing as translator - copyright issue

Hi,

 

Is it possible to publish English-language translations of international books on Lulu?

 

The books concerned were published 80-130 years ago and are rare books not easily available even in their countries of origin. They haven't even been digitized. Also worth mentioning is that they are not the literary works of well-known and widely published authors either so no new editions have been published since.

 

 

 

Comments

  • Several things:

     

    1.) What copyright, if any, is stated in the originals? If copyright is claimed, you should make at least some reasonable attempt to ascertain the current copyright status. Any book published after 1925 is probably under copyright.

     

    2.) The obscurity of the book is not relevant to the copyright status.

     

    3.) If you cannot find any information about the copyright despite a reasonably diligent attempt, it is possible to publish them, however, you must immediately end publication when someone reasonably asserts that they hold copyright. See the MDCA for details.

     

    4.) Assuming that you can either affirm or reasonably assert that the books are in the public domain, or that you have acquired permission to use them in your current work, then you must still indicate clearly that these are not original works of yours, and that you are the editor / translator.

  • I can only second what Skoob Ym has advised. He is absolutely correct on all counts.

     

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Thank you for the reply!

     

    The publishing companies concerned no longer exist and I couldn't find any information on any surviving relatives of the authors. I mentioned their rarity because I think it means no new publishing company has obtained exclusive rights since. Naturally, I would clearly point out who the author is and that I am merely the translator.

  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    These books are in the public domain. You'll have no royalties to pay to copyright owners. Besides your translations will belong to you, and should be copyrighted to your name if you want to be paid royalties. Such works are encouraged by the international academic community because they make such books known at the global level. Congratulations.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    If they were ever copyrighted then it lasts 75 years after the copyright owner's death.

     

    But don't always assume that even rare and hardly known books do not get digitized nowadays, or even already translated. Some places like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Gutenberg  were set up just to do that, and they are not the only ones. I would spend a lot of time searching such places before you go ahead.

  • @potetjp

    Thank you!

     

    @kevinlomas

     

    Isn't that 70 years instead of 75? 

    I was able to establish that one author died in 1935, another in 1942. In other cases I was unable to find any information about the authors.

     

    The existence of another independently-published translation would actually be a good thing from the copyright standpoint because it would mean someone else has already used that book as a public domain book in order to publish a derivative work (translation). But it's not the case. 

     

  • There is actually a pretty complicated table dealing with the terms of copyright. In the case of the latest dates you are talking about, this would seem to apply: 

     

    1923 through 1963

    Published with notice and the copyright was renewed

    95 years after publication date

     

    1923 is 82 years ago.

     

    Anything published before 1923 is absolutely safe.

     

    Post-1978 copyright registrations can be checked at http://www.copyright.gov/ 

    while pre-1978 copyrights can be checked at Google Copyright Search http://books.google.com/googlebooks/copyrightsearch.html

     

    By the way, "The existence of another independently-published translation would actually be a good thing from the copyright standpoint because it would mean someone else has already used that book as a public domain book in order to publish a derivative work (translation)" is not necessarily true. You are only assuming that the other translator bothered to check to make sure the book was in the public domain. This might not have been the case.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    Never forget that a translation is a literary piece of work that belongs to its author. The translator is as much a writer as the author of the original.
    As regards copyrights, however many times a book in the public domain is republished, it is sill and forever in the public domain. For example nobody can claim copyrights on Shakespeare's plays or Jules Verne's novels. If copyright there is, it can only be on the edition, not on the text.
  • @Ron Miller

     

    Thank you for that useful table. I think this is the relevant part for my case:

     

    Works First Published Outside the U.S. by Foreign Nationals or U.S. Citizens Living Abroad


    Before 1923 - In the public domain

     

     

     

     

     

     


  • potetjp wrote:
    Never forget that a translation is a literary piece of work that belongs to its author. The translator is as much a writer as the author of the original. As regards copyrights, however many times a book in the public domain is republished, it is sill and forever in the public domain. For example nobody can claim copyrights on Shakespeare's plays or Jules Verne's novels. If copyright there is, it can only be on the edition, not on the text.

    Very true, of course. Translation is not a simple matter of "X means Y" but rather, "In this sense, X can mean A, B, or C, or taken metaphorically, Y or Z, but the best rendition in this case is probably Q."

     

    I used to make a German coworker laugh by translating German phrases literally into English: "Excuse-you, please," for example.

     

    But from a copyright perspective, it remains a derivitive work, and precedence must be given to the original author. The copyright of the translator is specifically for the translation itself, and not for the original nor for any parallel derivitive work. It would even be difficult for a translator to prove that a derivitive work drawn from his translation was not drawn from the original.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    The translator is as much a writer as the author of the original.

     

    I will strongly disagree with that. A translator is simply a person who is able to understand two languages. They do not write what they translate. If their translation does not actually say that it is, it could be seen as plagiarism.

     

    Ja čvrsto se ne slažem s tim. Prevoditelj je jednostavno osoba koja je u stanju razumjeti dva jezika. Oni ne pišu ono što im prijevod. Ako je njihov prijevod zapravo ne kažu da je, što se može vidjeti kako je plagijat.

     

     


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    The translator is as much a writer as the author of the original.

     

    I will strongly disagree with that. A translator is simply a person who is able to understand two languages. They do not write what they translate. If their translation does not actually say that it is, it could be seen as plagiarism.

     

    Ja čvrsto se ne slažem s tim. Prevoditelj je jednostavno osoba koja je u stanju razumjeti dva jezika. Oni ne pišu ono što im prijevod. Ako je njihov prijevod zapravo ne kažu da je, što se može vidjeti kako je plagijat.

     

     


    In simple terms, Kevin, you are wrong.

     

    Look at the phrase I used above: "Excuse-you, please." In English, that looks completely wrong, but it is an exact translation, word for word, of the German "Instrudigen-sie, bitte." A real translator would render it, "Excuse me," or "Pardon me," or "Please excuse me" depending on the context.

     

    And that is the sense in which a translator is as much a writer as the author. The translator must sculpt the scene with smoothly-flowing phrases and adjustments of grammar according to ideas.

     

    Take another example from French: If I translate "I love you" I can wind up with "Je vous aime" (a filial kind of love, like friendship) or "Je t'aime" which would suggest a more romantic kind of love, or "Je t'amour" which is strictly a passionate romance, or "Je t'adore" which could be a love as romance or a love as reverence.

     

    The correct choice depends on the rest of the story. If you put "I love you" through google-translate or something like that, you'll probably get "Je t'aime," but if you put that, for example, into a French translation of Boswell's Life of Johnson, you'd be making some odd assertions about those decidedly heterosexual warriors.

     

    Context is everything, and a good translator is an artist.

  • potetjppotetjp Professor
    I am afraid, Kevin Lomas, as so often, you talk about things you know nothing about. A translator is the auithor of their translation, owns the copyrights on their translation, and as such is treated as a writer. At least this is the law in the European Union.

  • potetjp wrote:
    I am afraid, Kevin Lomas, as so often, you talk about things you know nothing about. A translator is the auithor of their translation, owns the copyrights on their translation, and as such is treated as a writer. At least this is the law in the European Union.

    You are correct, of course. Ocassionally a translation is a work for hire: that is, the translator was commissioned to create a translation of a work with the translation itself belonging either to the publisher or the original author. That being said, most publishers will include a separate copyright notice for the translation in the translator's name. It must always be remembered however that, unless one is working with a public domain original, a translation is considered a derivative work.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • In simple terms, Kevin, you are wrong.

     

    Look at the phrase I used above: "Excuse-you, please." In English, that looks completely wrong, but it is an exact translation, word for word, of the German "Instrudigen-sie, bitte." A real translator would render it, "Excuse me," or "Pardon me," or "Please excuse me" depending on the context.

     

    Indeed, but they are not writing it, just translating it because hopefully they know the ins and outs of both languages. Whoever wrote the original wrote it.

     

    And that is the sense in which a translator is as much a writer as the author. The translator must sculpt the scene with smoothly-flowing phrases and adjustments of grammar according to ideas.

     

    But they are not writing it, just translating it. There are good and bad translators, but all the same they are not writing it.

     

    Take another example from French: If I translate "I love you" I can wind up with "Je vous aime" (a filial kind of love, like friendship) or "Je t'aime" which would suggest a more romantic kind of love, or "Je t'amour" which is strictly a passionate romance, or "Je t'adore" which could be a love as romance or a love as reverence.

     

    Try Mandarin where how you say a word can give it many very different meanings. But it would depend on the context if "Je vous aime" is the wrong translation or not. Does that not just mean "I like you"? I love you in French is "Je t'aime" and not I like you.

     

    The correct choice depends on the rest of the story. If you put "I love you" through google-translate or something like that, you'll probably get "Je t'aime," but if you put that, for example, into a French translation of Boswell's Life of Johnson, you'd be making some odd assertions about those decidedly heterosexual warriors.

     

    Quite so. Context. You mean as heterosexual as ancient warriors?  Smiley Happy The intro does say this however >>  "Phillips Brooks once told the boys at Exeter that in reading biography three men meet one another in close intimacy"

     

    Context is everything, and a good translator is an artist.

     

    Nope, just a good or bad translator. The original writer may have been an artist.

  • I am afraid, Kevin Lomas, as so often, you talk about things you know nothing about. A translator is the auithor of their translation, owns the copyrights on their translation, and as such is treated as a writer. At least this is the law in the European Union

     

    I am not talking about copyrights on translations, so how can I be wrong about that? The subject did not come up.  I am saying that they did not write what they translated, they translated it. Is that concept so hard to understand? Bizarre.

     

    If someone translated one of your stories to some other language would you say that had written it?

  • You are correct, of course. Ocassionally a translation is a work for hire: that is, the translator was commissioned to create a translation of a work with the translation itself belonging either to the publisher or the original author.

     

    True.

     

    That being said, most publishers will include a separate copyright notice for the translation in the translator's name.

     

    Also true, and rude not to do so. Often the translator's name is on the cover under the title and writer's name. 'Translated by'. At times it even says from what original language. 'Translated by ******* from the original Polish'. But if employed by a publisher it will possibly only say it on the Copyright page.

     

    It must always be remembered however that, unless one is working with a public domain original, a translation is considered a derivative work.

     

    Exactly!

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