As I was reading my Agamemnon this morning I got to thinking that these plays would be interesting to see as a movie, of course not the way they make most movies but anyway. What I was wondering was though, who would own the copyright on the translation.
The front of the book says “All rights to performance are strictly reserved.” Does this only apply to the translation? Or can someone really own a story that is this old? I’m guessing the former, but then how do they know I didn’t translate it on my own, or goto a couple of different sources. Are Shakespere’s plays copyrighted as well?
So basically what I’d like to know, who owns the copyright on translations? This includes newer books as well as old plays.
The translator holds the copyright on these ancient translations. (Assuming the translation was done after 1923. Older ones are in the public domain.)
No two translations are ever alike. Most are not even very similar. If you put out a translation that you supposedly did yourself but just copied from someone else, it would be obvious from the first line.
It’s similar for modern works. I’ve had a book translated into four languages. They all show my original copyright and also a secondary copyright in the local country for the translation. (Sometimes the individual translator has the copyright and sometimes the publisher keeps it, but that’s a contract issue.) Legally, the publisher bought the rights to publish the book in that country and language. No other individual could take my original and do a new translation and publish it without acquiring the rights from me. This remains true as long as the copyright remains in effect.
Plays have their own legal issues, because the presentation, wording, abridgment, and staging can vary even for Shakespeare. But I’m not familiar enough with the fine print to say anything more.