Translation copyrights

Let’s say I write a best-selling book, Mike King’s Guide to Life. My publisher decides to expand the sales by having it translated and sold in another country. So he hires an English-Pig Latin translator, Sidius Caesar, to translate my book for sale in Pig Rome. Sid duly produces Ethay Idegay otay Ifelay ofway Mike King.

Now who holds the copyright to this book; Me, because I wrote the English-language original? Sid, because he wrote the actual text (and based on the idea you can only copyright particular arrangements of words, not ideas)? Or is negotiated on a case-by-case basis?

To make it more complicated, what if Sid decides to translate a public domain work like The Wizard of Oz? Can he then copyright his work, Ethay Izardway ofway Ozway?

There are two copyrights.In the public domain case, just one. You will need to pay the original author/publisher for their copyright. Even books that sell 2000 copies sometimes are worth translating, it depends on the price you can get.My wife translated a book on knife making.I’m not allowed to tell you her rate per word, but generally it’s kess than a dollar. A large coin would cover it.

Under Mexican copyright law, the translator owns the rights to the translated work, but in order to register the translation for copyright purposes and publish the work, the translator (or holder of the translation copyright) must have express consent from the author of the original work to publish the translation.

Translations are given the same treatment as compilations, collections and other “transformations” of original work. Usually this does not involve the transfer of copyright of the work, but rather an assignment of that specific right.

Also, given the likelihood that more than one translator can produce similar works derived from the same original, the law states that minor variations or simple word exchanges do not constitute an original work.

While not certain, I believe that these provisions are in accordance with internationally accepted principles.

“Where there is clarity, there is no choice. And where there is choice, there is misery. But then, why should I speak, since I know nothing?”

Mike - If you’re interested, the U.S. copyright law is in pdf format here: .