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Old 12-28-2019, 05:04 AM   #1
franklekens
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Kobo Writing Life & translation copyrights

Had anyone encountered this problem before, and know how to resolve this?
I've made Dutch translations of some English prose works that are in the public domain. I provided them with a book cover in the form of an illustration taken from public domain works (e.g. a 19th century painting), but that is only incidental. The book itself is a new text (i.e. my translation), and I am in no doubt about the copyright situation of this text: the source text was in the public domain, but the translation is a new work to which I have all the copyright.

Suddenly, someone at Kobo Writing Life seems to take issue with this, but instead of a real explanation I get these bot like answers mumbling about public domain and how, if something is (they even said 'primarily', which is demonstrably not the case) in the public domain, it has to be published as such.

I presume this is because they have nobody there who reads Dutch and/or really knows how copyright works. They simply see: Oh, the author is Henry James (say), so this is in the public domain, so it has to be published as a public domain work.

Which it is, I repeat, definitely not. The translation is a new work, the copyright is 100% mine. But in the e-mail, they asked me to "prove" that. (How do you "prove" that a text you wrote--in the sense of translated--is your own text? They want me to film myself while I'm typing and editing the text or what?)
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Old 12-28-2019, 12:32 PM   #2
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Point them to a non public domain translation to english of War and Peace that they sell.
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Old 12-28-2019, 10:54 PM   #3
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I've noticed a number of what look like dodgy publications lately, so I was getting the impression Kobo wasn't doing much checking.

I have no experience with translations, I can only think that you must ask Kobo what evidence they require. Are you certain they are not asking for proof that the work you are translating is in the public domain? Could it be that it is only in the public domain in some locations and you are attempting to publish globally? Is there a chance you published it at Amazon (or elsewhere) using a version of your name that looks different to what you are using at Kobo? (So they might think another translation exists, not realising it is yours.) Those were just some ideas I had. You have little choice but to try and work it out with Kobo, and if necessary ask them to be explicit about their requirements.
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Old 12-29-2019, 09:41 AM   #4
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The problem is that after one single e-mail containing an explanation that really wasn’t, they simply don't reply anymore. There's no confusion with texts published elsewhere, the copyright belongs to me 100%, in every country, since its 100% my text (i.e. my translation).

The weirdest thing is: seemingly in reaction to my second reply and request for clarification, in which I pointed out that they'd already approved some other epubs of mine last year, they've now also canceled all of these. The cancellation text mentions only: "Inappropriate content (contains images/text from works in the public domain)", no further explanation is given.

To complicate matters slightly: I'd also published two 19th century translations that are in the public domain. In one of these two, I admit I seem to have made the mistake of not flagging that as public domain. That’s rather moot, however, since I offered that text for free. The other public domain text I did put up for 2 euro (partly to see if that would make a difference in the number of downloads and partly because I’d put some effort into modernizing its spelling). And this text has been taken down too, with the same cryptic justification. But that’s nonsense, since I *had* actually flagged that as public domain.

And as for the translations that are my own, I don't *need* to publish those as public domain texts, since they aren’t.

I guess I shouldn’t read too much into it, but it almost feels like a vindictive action by someone who thought my second request for information didn't sound friendly enough and because of that just decided to cancel all my books.

Oh well. I though this might prove to be a free and relatively hasslefree way of charging a fee for my translations on the web, i.e. without having to go through the hassle of installing your own paywall, or actually publishing it officially (with an ISBN &c, which costs time and money). But I guess the only way forward is putting them up for free. Because I don't feel like being at the mercy of the ignorance and incompetence of some Canadian (?) office worker who knows nothing about translation copyright and/or is too lazy to check the actual contents of a book.
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Old 12-29-2019, 12:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franklekens View Post
partly because I’d put some effort into modernizing its spelling. And this text has been taken down too, with the same cryptic justification. But that’s nonsense, since I *had* actually flagged that as public domain.
A version of a PD text with your editing of spelling and typos is your copyright, though the source and author should be listed. You are the real editor.
Same applies to a translation of a PD text. You 100% own copyright of the translated version.

Big publishers do this often with popular classics.
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