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Old 06-07-2010, 04:35 PM   #1
bobcdy
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Copyrights on translations

Another question about copyrights in the US. I'm interested in doing an epub on a work first published in 1837 in French. There is an English translation published in the late 1960s, and I wondered if that translation has the same copyrights as a newly written book?

My feeling is that perhaps it does have copyrights but on the other hand, the translation is not really an original work - it required knowledge of French and of the subject matter, but given those requirements a large number of people could create a similar translation with only a relatively small differences between translations by different translators. Thus, little originality and no claim to copyright(?)

I'd apreciate your help on this.
Bob
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Old 06-07-2010, 05:30 PM   #2
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My feeling is that perhaps it does have copyrights but on the other hand, the translation is not really an original work - it required knowledge of French and of the subject matter, but given those requirements a large number of people could create a similar translation with only a relatively small differences between translations by different translators.
You underestimate the skill and originality needed to make a good translation.

But anyway, translations do have their own copyright. There's also the copyright of the original work to be considered.*

Any translation made in the 1960s is almost certainly still in copyright everywhere.

* It's even possible for a translation to be out of copyright, but for the original to still be in copyright, and so any publication of the translation would require permission (& payment) to the holder of the copyright of the original. Of course, it's more common the other way around.
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Old 06-07-2010, 05:44 PM   #3
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There is an English translation published in the late 1960s, and I wondered if that translation has the same copyrights as a newly written book?
Yes. You can probably take the original from 1837, though, and translate it yourself.
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Old 06-07-2010, 06:58 PM   #4
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Yes. You can probably take the original from 1837, though, and translate it yourself.
Or just run it through google translate...
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Old 06-07-2010, 08:30 PM   #5
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My feeling is that perhaps it does have copyrights but on the other hand, the translation is not really an original work - it required knowledge of French and of the subject matter, but given those requirements a large number of people could create a similar translation with only a relatively small differences between translations by different translators.
This is an argument likely to be used by companies hiring translators: "Everybody knows how to speak English, so why should we pay you that much for a translation?". Yeah, sure ...

Especially in literature a good translator doesn't only translate the literality, but captures the spirit of the text, the atmosphere, the wit, whatever you may call it. And that definitely is a creative work in itself.

So, yup, a translation has its own copyright. Yours as well, if you're going to translate that book.
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Old 06-07-2010, 10:00 PM   #6
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Thanks for the rapid replies! They clear up all my uncertainty about translations.
Bob
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