Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Copyright for Translations

The New York Times recently reported on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that returns works published abroad and previously not protected under U.S. copyright to protected status under U.S. copyright law. Since many such works were presumably originally published in languages other than English, it got me thinking about copyright for translations. According to the Copyright Advisory Network of the American Library Association, translators have a copyright to their translations, but need to obtain permission from the rights holder of the original work in order to publish that translation.

Technical text, such as computer documentation, is usually written as a "work for hire", i.e., the author either is an employee of the end client or relinquishes his/her copyright in the freelance contract. Most of my contracts with translation agencies also specify that I cannot claim copyright to my work. Since I translate mainly technical and legal documents that have little commercial value beyond their specific uses, such as documentation accompanying a certain device or a contract between two specific parties, this lack of copyright does not particularly concern me.

It did make me wonder, though, how contracts for literary translations are worded. Do they include the same language on copyright as most standard agency contracts? Given the relatively low rates most literary translations command, it would only seem fair that translators should be able to retain rights to their work. This is particularly true since the absence of such rights for the translator generally does not mean that the translation is in the public domain, but rather that a corporate entity (usually a publishing house) benefits from the translator's work.

An interesting perspective is provided by Lenita M. R. Esteves, who translated J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings into Brazilian Portuguese. She wrote about her experience with copyright issues after that book became a bestseller on the Translation Journal's blog, Translators Around the World.

If you translate literary works, what has your experience with copyright been?

20 comments:

  1. You have covered an interesting topic....This is particularly true since the absence of such rights for the translator generally does not mean that the translation is in the public domain.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice stuff! Thanks for sharing this post recently. I'm looking forward to reading more.
    Website Translation Services

    ReplyDelete
  3. Slightly off topic: who has the copyright for a literary work which has been out of print for 80 years and the publishing house is defunct?

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I always like your blog post because you always comes with different ideas and information. I always shared your site post with my friends. Keep posting and i will follow you.
    voice over company   
        

    ReplyDelete
  7. i preferred the information on this internet site. Wish to stop by once more.

    Quebec French Translation & Translators From English to French

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your post has always different, you can share something is unique for the copyrights. I have been seeking some post relating to copyright translation for having knowledge.
    Translation of Documents

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi there

    Very nice information you have updated here , i am biggest fan of your site.
    Thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete

  10. Hi there
    It is well explained about a Specific topic.I am also a Translators , and of course i had done many more projects.
    I hope your article will teach me to do something else different.
    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. i impressed by the quality of information on this website. there are a lot of good resource here. i am sure i will visit this place again soon.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you for posting the great content…I was looking for something like this…I found it quiet interesting, hopefully you will keep posting such blogs….Keep sharing

    Copywriting Services

    ReplyDelete
  13. Awesome post you have here. Thanks for sharing! Anyway, you could try visiting Lexcode if you're looking for a language translator. Lexcode is committed to providing its clients accurate and high quality translations.

    ReplyDelete
  14. It is really great and nice article and it is informative article. I read this and it is very helpful for me....

    ReplyDelete
  15. Good news! Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Awesome details for language translation,please keep updating.
    Translation Services in Bangalore

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comment. I will review comments weekly, so please be patient if you are expecting a reply. - Barbara