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412 Views 6 Replies Last post: Jul 3, 2018 7:03 PM by Serenissima RSS
Level 0 3 posts since
Jun 7, 2018
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Jun 9, 2018 3:19 PM

Question about Copyright for a Translation

Hello

 

I'm looking to self-publish the English translation of a foreign work from 1925. This text has never before appeared in English, only in Russian. I know for a derivative work, I must show some kind of evidence that I have the right to publish it. Here is the problem. Tracking down a solid answer on if this is public domain or not is proving a nightmare, however Amazon is currently selling an audiobook of this work from a third party in the original Russian, and it says, on Amazon, that this is done under public domain.

 

So my question is, if Amazon is already selling a derivative of something (an audiobook, like a translation, is classed as derivative), with a stated declaration that according to them, it is public domain,  does that mean I have a green light?

 

Thanks

Level 5 19,149 posts since
Sep 5, 2009
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1. Jun 9, 2018 3:29 PM in response to: lanzsennoy
Re: Question about Copyright for a Translation

Take a look at https://copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain  You will see that in the US, the key date for when a publication is in public domain is 1923.  Despite the year of publication there are other things, copryight notice itself, copyright renewal, etc., that could put the work into public domain.

 

You might have to know if there is such a table for Russia/Soviet Union.  But this should be easier than tracking down the current copyright holder.

 

As for your specific question, if the other publisher is correct, then you could rely on that.  If the other publisher is not . . . .

 

You might want to have  a chat with an attorney.  One defense, if you proceed and the work is not in public domain . . . is that you acted prudently, talking ot an attorney, etc.

 

Given the spam here, come on over to  selfpublishingforum.  It's free.  Many of us who answer questions here are active there.

 

Walton

 

Bleeds,  free, 91 page guide to bleeds, margins, covers, and annotated CreateSpace guidelines. Prepress Glossary: free, 79 page, fully illustrated prepress glossary with annotations for  CreateSpace users Type & Typography: free, 112 page illustrated guide to designing books, typography, with glossary, and type specimen pages  Free: list of free PDF downloads; selfpublishingforum: spam free forum. Contact  for graphics, design, and typesetting help.

 

 

Level 5 12,993 posts since
Aug 22, 2008
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3. Jun 10, 2018 10:29 AM in response to: lanzsennoy
Re: Question about Copyright for a Translation

lanzsennoy wrote:

I'm looking to self-publish the English translation of a foreign work from 1925. This text has never before appeared in English, only in Russian.

Where was the original work (the source for your translation) published? If it was Russia, then the Soviet regime changed their copyright law soon after "Red October" (1917) to conform to Socialist ideology. Copyright duration was reduced to 25 years after date of first publication, and the law automatically granted freedom of translation (any copyrighted work could be freely translated for publication in other languages). On that basis, the original work should have entered public domain years ago (and even if it hadn't, translation was lawful/encouraged).

 

However, a lot of famous Russian works of that period were denied publication by the Soviet state, and were actually first published in another nation (France and Italy being two frequent choices), and if that were the case with the work you are translating, then it gets more confusing because copyright laws of other nations would apply.

Level 5 19,149 posts since
Sep 5, 2009
Currently Being Moderated
5. Jun 11, 2018 9:58 AM in response to: lanzsennoy
Re: Question about Copyright for a Translation

Often the copyright is transferred to the publisher, something fairly common in the US.  This is the sort of thing that simply compounds your problem, especially if the publisher no longer exists.  My guess is that you would be safe. But my guess is worth what you've paid me thus far (I'll keep a running tab). I'd say wirite up the particulars about this, then spend a few hundred dollars and see an attorney.  At a minimum you'll be able to show prudence, should the worst happen.

 

Given the spam here, come on over to  selfpublishingforum.  It's free.  Many of us who answer questions here are active there.

 

Walton

 

Bleeds,  free, 91 page guide to bleeds, margins, covers, and annotated CreateSpace guidelines. Prepress Glossary: free, 79 page, fully illustrated prepress glossary with annotations for  CreateSpace users Type & Typography: free, 112 page illustrated guide to designing books, typography, with glossary, and type specimen pages  Free: list of free PDF downloads; selfpublishingforum: spam free forum. Contact  for graphics, design, and typesetting help.

 

 

Level 0 2 posts since
Feb 1, 2009
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6. Jul 3, 2018 7:03 PM in response to: lanzsennoy
Re: Question about Copyright for a Translation

The copyright status of the original Russian language text varies depending upon which territory you are in. The 1925 publication means that the original is potentially under copyright in the USA until 2021 (95 years from publication for pre-1978 works), provided that a) it was originally published with the required notice of copyright; b) it was renewed by the orginal claimant (the author) or their legal heirs 28 years later; or c) the work was "restored" to copyright (having failed on the two previous points) under the US copyright statute's provisions resulting from the GATT Treaty (Section 104: Notice of Intent to Enforce). If the work is public domain in the 'country of origin' (normally the country of first publicatrion) the work is not eligible for this "restoration". This applies only to the USA, however.

 

Nearly every other country in the world calculates the copyright term quite differently than the USA did before 1978. The normal schema for copyright term is a set number of years (usually 50 or 70) after the death of the "last surviving contributor". If the author is the only 'contributor' to the 1925 Russian-language original, the original work is protected for a term of 70 years after the author's death in the EU, other parts of Europe (including Russia starting in 2004), and several other countries. It would be protected for 50 years after the author's death in most of the world, including China, Korea, Canada, New Zealand and other places. So, if the author of the Russian book you are translating died in 1925, and the 1925 publication lacked a valid notice, or no renewal was filed in 1952 or 1953, the orginal is free in the USA as no NIE could be filed under the GATT provisions as the copyright would have expired by 1996 in the country of origin (Germany or Russia).

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