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Is my English translation from French my property?

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 10:11 pm
by brazen_head
We are translating a book written in French in 1910 into English to publish to a very niche market. The author died in 1914 and although I am assuming the book is in the public domain I am not clear about French copyright law. I have read that a translation of any book is copyright of the translator but is this entirely true? This will be the first book of the press and I really don't want to get into hot water straight away - can anyone help?

Posted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:14 am
by Warlock
My understanding is that a translation is a derivative work, clearly you can make no claim to the original book, nor can you prevent others from translating the book and selling their translation.

I would assume that you can claim copyright to your translation - so a direct copy of your translation would be an infringement. How you would prove that they copied you rather than translating the original themselves is another matter - presumably translations by different people will be different (different choices of words and phrasing by the translator) so it should be possible to see a direct copy.

I am not up on French law, but in the UK copyright in the situation you describe will have expired on Dec 31st 1984. I would expect the situation in France would be the same (though as this is an English translation, I assume the market is UK/USA, etc. - not France :) - so French law probably won't be an issue anyway).

Posted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:29 pm
by AndyJ
As Warlock has said, you are perfectly safe to produce a translation of the original work, and you would have the copyright in that translation. French copyright law was revised in 2006 (the DADSVI Act) to bring it in line with the 2001 EU Copyright Directive. Copyright for a French author lasts for 70 years after his death (as in the UK) but weirdly there are special rules for authors who died on active service, and the period of both the First and Second World Wars do no count towards the 70 year period, so another 10 years needs to be added on to take account of this! Either way, if the original author died in 1910, the work in French is now out of copyright. There remains the moral right for the French writer to be named as the author, but I imagine that you would want to do this in any case. Bonne chance!