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Author Topic: Copyright Question  (Read 2402 times)

Allaya

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Copyright Question
« on: October 15, 2013, 06:15:00 am »
As far as I understand, it is not the information in a book that is copyrighted, but the particular presentation of the information that is (word choice, grammar, etc).

Having read the copyright policy here, I would like to convey some information I found in a book I've got that is longer than a few sentences. BUT...the mitigating circumstance is that I would have personally translated the text from Norwegian to English.  The nature of Norwegian language means it takes a great deal of massaging to render it into English and I think would constitute a sufficient alteration from the original to make the issue of copyright rather moot.

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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2013, 07:26:36 am »
Quote from: Allaya;125406
Having read the copyright policy here, I would like to convey some information I found in a book I've got that is longer than a few sentences. BUT...the mitigating circumstance is that I would have personally translated the text from Norwegian to English.  The nature of Norwegian language means it takes a great deal of massaging to render it into English and I think would constitute a sufficient alteration from the original to make the issue of copyright rather moot.

Unfortunately, copyright law basically means that you cannot publish a translation of a copyrighted work without permission of the copyright owner. (Although the translator would also have a copyright on the text of the translation, which would need permission from both to be reprinted).

You can read the book, close it, and put the ideas themselves into your own words and organization and publish that.
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Allaya

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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2013, 08:25:45 am »
Quote from: RandallS;125412
Unfortunately, copyright law basically means that you cannot publish a translation of a copyrighted work without permission of the copyright owner. (Although the translator would also have a copyright on the text of the translation, which would need permission from both to be reprinted).

You can read the book, close it, and put the ideas themselves into your own words and organization and publish that.

Colloquial Norwegian does NOT translate well at all...so that is pretty much the same process required to translate the text directly and not that far off from what I was planning anyways.  Fair enough!

(I think this is why movies take a really long time to come out over here.)

Oh!  And thank you very much for the quick reply, Randall!
« Last Edit: October 15, 2013, 08:26:35 am by Allaya »
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Jenett

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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2013, 09:01:32 am »
Quote from: Allaya;125423
Colloquial Norwegian does NOT translate well at all...so that is pretty much the same process required to translate the text directly and not that far off from what I was planning anyways.  Fair enough!

 
A little additional info, in case it helps anyone - basically, the thing with translation and copyright is that translation is seen as creating a derivative work (because you would not have anything to translate if you didn't have the original.)

Derivative works are one of the things covered in copyright law, so therefore, translations are too.

Because (as Randall notes) publishing translations often takes two rounds of permissions, a lot of translations (movies, books published through major publishing houses, etc.) are done as work-for-hire, which generally means "I am paying you X amount to translate this thing, but you do not keep any of the copyright associated with it." (Work for hire is exceedingly complicated in a lot of cases, so I'm simplifying, but it's a common practice for translation.)

Obviously, translating from a work outside of copyright simplifies a lot of this immensely. (My father was a specialist in ancient Greek theatre, including publishing a bunch of his own translations: obviously in that case, you don't have to deal with whether Euripides holds copyright in the 20th century, you can just do the translation and go from there.)

It doesn't matter what the original languages are, or how much they rely on slang, colloquial expression, or whatever: you're still deriving your translation from someone else's work, and if it's under copyright, they get to determine whether or not it's something they want to allow.

Jenett, taking off her librarian geekery hat.
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Allaya

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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2013, 09:52:00 am »
Quote from: Jenett;125427
A little additional info, in case it helps anyone - basically, the thing with translation and copyright is that translation is seen as creating a derivative work (because you would not have anything to translate if you didn't have the original.)

Derivative works are one of the things covered in copyright law, so therefore, translations are too.

Because (as Randall notes) publishing translations often takes two rounds of permissions, a lot of translations (movies, books published through major publishing houses, etc.) are done as work-for-hire, which generally means "I am paying you X amount to translate this thing, but you do not keep any of the copyright associated with it." (Work for hire is exceedingly complicated in a lot of cases, so I'm simplifying, but it's a common practice for translation.)

Obviously, translating from a work outside of copyright simplifies a lot of this immensely. (My father was a specialist in ancient Greek theatre, including publishing a bunch of his own translations: obviously in that case, you don't have to deal with whether Euripides holds copyright in the 20th century, you can just do the translation and go from there.)

It doesn't matter what the original languages are, or how much they rely on slang, colloquial expression, or whatever: you're still deriving your translation from someone else's work, and if it's under copyright, they get to determine whether or not it's something they want to allow.

Jenett, taking off her librarian geekery hat.

 

I'm puzzled as to where the line is, then.  In order to convey the information on the page in question, my husband and I would have to read it over together, then he dictates a literal translation, and I jot down notes.  Then I construct a new block of text based on my notes and on discussion with my husband.  The book is on the shelf at this point.  Any books still on my desk are supplementary texts. If this is a copyvio, I don't know that my college professors would have taught that method.

For example, in translating a page about house wights (nisser), I ended up needing two additional books and an hour of googling.  A straight translation was barely readable.

That's how much colloquial Norwegian doesn't translate. Things are written in such a way that a great deal of prior knowledge is assumed on the part of the reader. I'm pretty much writing a multiple-source essay rather than regurgitating what was on the page.

Thinking about it, the finished product really does end up more like an essay.  Would that be acceptable to post...somewhere?  I think the Asatru & Heathenry SIG might enjoy it, but I wouldn't want to intrude and/or crap all over their SIG with huge walls of text.
Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.  — Shirley Chisholm
No doubt the truth can be unpleasant, but I am not sure that unpleasantness is the same as the truth.  — Roger Ebert
It is difficult to get a person to understand something when their livelihood depends upon them not understanding it. — Upton Sinclair (adapted)
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Jenett

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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2013, 11:40:42 am »
Quote from: Allaya;125438
I'm puzzled as to where the line is, then.  In order to convey the information on the page in question, my husband and I would have to read it over together, then he dictates a literal translation, and I jot down notes.  Then I construct a new block of text based on my notes and on discussion with my husband.  The book is on the shelf at this point.  Any books still on my desk are supplementary texts. If this is a copyvio, I don't know that my college professors would have taught that method.


The thing is, you're conflating the technique (translation) with what you do with the end result. And that's where the copyright problem is.

Copyright covers a bunch of different rights - everything from creating derivative works to publishing or distributing them. (It's possible to grant partial rights to someone else: for example, an author might hold most rights, but give permission to their publisher to print and sell copies, because that's how they get their work in people's hands.)

When you make a translation, you are basing your translation on the original work. It doesn't matter that your last stage doesn't involve looking at the original at all - it matters that you wouldn't *get* to that last stage except by starting with the original.

Let's take an example - I have a blog and website and have gotten a couple of requests from people to translate specific pages. I have (thus far) always said yes, but I ask for people to tell me where it's going to end up, and I want them to ask me permission.

They're doing the translation work, but without my original page, they wouldn't have *that particular content* to start with. Which is why they are, legally, required to ask me for permission (or determine that the original isn't under copyright: my father did not need to ask Euripides for permission, obviously.)

However, if they read my article, and read half a dozen different articles, and then wrote their own, referencing my article and all the others - well, that's standard academic discourse. What makes it different is that they were not dependent on my material for the entire basis of their work.

All of that said, what you do in your own home, that isn't shared with other people, generally isn't a big issue. It's a commonly accepted thing in academia that you might make a single copy of an article you're using for research from a journal, or that if you're learning or perfecting a language you might translate things from one language to another. As long as it's sitting on your personal desk, or your personal computer, and isn't getting shared in general, you are almost certainly fine.

What *is* a problem is sharing it. And that could mean 'print a book' but these days, it also includes 'post online' especially anywhere where pretty much anyone could reasonably get access.

(Daycares have gotten in trouble for copyrighted images painted on windows, even though a fairly limited number of people are going to see them, for example. The massive online courses generally can't use copyrighted works without getting permission, because they're effectively 'anyone who signs up', and the law does see differences between that and a small classroom setting, though this is an area of copyright law that's got a lot of discussion right now.)

Now, if what you have is, say, 50 lines of original text, and you end up doing commentary and explanation and analysis, such that you have a substantial amount more commentary than original - well, then you're getting into academic uses of material, and that may fall under fair use.

However, fair use is only ever a defence against copyright violation charges - it's determined on a case by case basis (at least in the US courts, but I think it's true of anywhere under the Berne copyright treaties, which includes most places).

There are lots of cases of X amount being fine in this case, and [some amount smaller than X] being a problem in another case - that's partly because different courts make different decisions, but it's also because fair use looks at a bunch of factors, of which the quantity is just one. (The others have to do with effect on market, how much of the core of the original is used, and the type of use. Generally, they favour uses like academic analysis, where the market is not heavily affected.)

Putting out a translation, on the other hand, *could* affect the market (say someone was already planning a translation, or one was contracted out, or whatever.) So that's a much more problematic use, unless you get permission from the copyright holder (again, if you want to share it with other people: doing it for your own individual benefit, not a thing people will fuss over.)
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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2013, 01:18:00 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;125447
snip

 
So wait...how about we just cut the translation element out of it since that is ultimately a red herring here.  I could just as easily be doing on-the-fly mental translating for the purpose of this conversation.

I read an article from a book, take notes, add additional information from other sources to the mix, then write a summation of the whole pile of notes and include a source list at the end...and I'm still in violation?  Good gravy...my entire college career was based on wholesale copy-violations, then.

"What is the damn point of anything then?" she said in exasperation.

I'm glad for the explanations, Jenett, and always enjoyed your posts during my lurkdom.  It's just....UGH. And I even grew up in an archive library.
Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.  — Shirley Chisholm
No doubt the truth can be unpleasant, but I am not sure that unpleasantness is the same as the truth.  — Roger Ebert
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Jack

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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2013, 01:29:38 pm »
Quote from: Allaya;125461
So wait...how about we just cut the translation element out of it since that is ultimately a red herring here.  I could just as easily be doing on-the-fly mental translating for the purpose of this conversation.

I read an article from a book, take notes, add additional information from other sources to the mix, then write a summation of the whole pile of notes and include a source list at the end...and I'm still in violation?  Good gravy...my entire college career was based on wholesale copy-violations, then.

"What is the damn point of anything then?" she said in exasperation.

I'm glad for the explanations, Jenett, and always enjoyed your posts during my lurkdom.  It's just....UGH. And I even grew up in an archive library.

 
I think the question is, are you going to present the final result as A Translation Of This Article, which implies it's still basically that article regardless of the amount of work you put into translating it, or are you going to present it as A Thing I Wrote About The Subject Of This Other Article, which is an entirely different thing? Because I did plenty of work in college where some of my sources were in foreign languages and I muddled through, summarizing them in English, but I wasn't translating them as such.
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Allaya

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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2013, 02:28:17 pm »
Quote from: Jack;125465
I think the question is, are you going to present the final result as A Translation Of This Article, which implies it's still basically that article regardless of the amount of work you put into translating it, or are you going to present it as A Thing I Wrote About The Subject Of This Other Article, which is an entirely different thing? Because I did plenty of work in college where some of my sources were in foreign languages and I muddled through, summarizing them in English, but I wasn't translating them as such.

 
Given the amount of work that goes into it, the fact that I work from notes, the amount of extra information that has to be added in order to fill in the reader-assumption gaps...I think it's not really a translation anymore. It's more like A Thing I Wrote About The Subject Of This Other Article, as you put it.
Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.  — Shirley Chisholm
No doubt the truth can be unpleasant, but I am not sure that unpleasantness is the same as the truth.  — Roger Ebert
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Jenett

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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2013, 04:04:20 pm »
Quote from: Allaya;125461

I read an article from a book, take notes, add additional information from other sources to the mix, then write a summation of the whole pile of notes and include a source list at the end...and I'm still in violation?  Good gravy...my entire college career was based on wholesale copy-violations, then.


First, I want to be really clear: there are some fairly standard exceptions for educational uses in a classroom setting that do not apply to "I want to post this on Random Online Forum." and that's part of the complexity.

But also, I think we've got some confusion somewhere, and I want to pull that out, because it might help other people.

The most basic principle: does your work substitute for the original? If someone read yours, would they need to read the original to get all the important parts? If so, then there's a potential copyright issue (or you need permission.) If not, it's more complicated, but there's also more options.

Let me break this down with examples. I'm pretty clear now that what you're doing is option 2 or 3, but it sounded like option 1 from your original post, which is why digging into the details matters.

Say you are interested in, say, the plant Silphium. (Real plant, now extinct - it was widely used in the Roman empire), and you start doing some research. Say you discover an article written by someone (recently, and still under copyright) in a language you speak but lots of other people don't, that has some great information.

Translating it
Simply translating it for your own use is not a problem: this falls very much under standard academic uses. Plus, it's hard for something that you don't share with others to cause problems via publishing or distribution.

How many resources you need to use to translate it doesn't matter. What matters is what the end result looks like: are you working with the basic text you started with (in terms of meaning, sentence by sentence progression through the work) or are you adding entirely new content?

Glossing the translation (adding contextual notes about things someone familiar with the original language would notice) is considered part of the translation, not a whole new work.

(Ah! I have an example here: I own a copy of Harry Potter, translated into Ancient Greek. The translator who did it made a bunch of choices about how he translated things - especially to preserve a consistent style and to keep as many of the name-related hints and puns as possible, as well as to create words that just don't exist in Greek but are necessary for Harry Potter.

Despite the fact he did a lot of impressive work to maintain those things, and has published some commentary about his choices, the basic text is still J.K. Rowling's. It's not 3 sentences of "Here is Privet Drive and some owls and a cat" and then a paragraph talking about suburban London civic design and what readers from the US might not know about, or a digression on animal shapeshifting folklore.)

In other words, just because well-done translation potentially adds substantial value to a work (larger readership or different readership, new ways of looking at it, additional information for readers, etc.) the copyright holder still gets to control how their work is used.

Translating it with commentary
Here, the case law I'm familiar with looks at how central the copyrighted work is to what you're doing. Basically, if you took out that work, would the rest of what you wrote hang together independently?

If you have your article about Silphium, and you are talking about why you picked this term rather than that term to translate it (and it was used for flavouring dishes, which is a kind of thing that languages have vastly different kinds of words for) then you want to look at various factors:

- How much of the original article are you quoting?
- What was the context for the original article?
- How much additional material are you adding?
- How necessary is it to know the original article to make sense of your version?

Basically, if you're quoting a substantial amount of the original, you're quoting key portions of the original, the original was a creative work rather than non-fiction, or you are having an impact on the market for the original, you may have problems. (And it's all of these factors together that get considered.)

Example one: You're taking an article that was written by someone else doing independent research, made available for free, and you're quoting only small portions of the work. This is pretty common academic mode, and is probably fine.

Example two: You take an article by someone who is about to come out with Awesome New Book about Silphinium, and written as a teaser for what's in their book. Your version quotes extensively from their article, and it includes the key points they're arguing, including points you could probably not have reached independently yourself. (Say they're arguing that this other species of fennel is chemically similar, and they did the analysis about it.) This is quite possibly a violation for several reasons, but especially the 'core of the work' and the 'affecting the market' parts.

Example three: You use their work as the core for your own research, but you take an idea they mention in passing, and do more with it. You're still mostly using their work (and your translation of their work) as the basis for what you're doing, but because you're not using the core, and probably not quoting that much directly, it is probably fine. (Especially if their work was part of general academic discourse on the subject.)

(Note the extensive uses of the word 'probably' and 'possibly' here: basically the only way to know for certain if a use is permitted is to either get permission or have it go through the court system. Everything else is speculation.)

Using it as part of a larger work
Last option: you find this awesome article, you translate it. You then take your translation, combine it with half a dozen other works, and write up a summary of "Current state of research on Silphium with several recipes" Let's say one of those recipes came from that translated article, one is something you came up with yourself, and one is from another source.

This is standard academic mode, and it is generally considered just fine, so long as you're not quoting vast amounts of any one source. (A few sentences here or there, yes. A few sentences with extensive commentary, even better.) But it relies on there being a whole bunch of different sources, on appropriate citation, and on you not duplicating the core of any of the sources in your own work entirely.

Back to your original post

You said:
Quote
Having read the copyright policy here, I would like to convey some information I found in a book I've got that is longer than a few sentences. BUT...the mitigating circumstance is that I would have personally translated the text from Norwegian to English. The nature of Norwegian language means it takes a great deal of massaging to render it into English and I think would constitute a sufficient alteration from the original to make the issue of copyright rather moot.


The way this is described, it still sounds pretty much like translation. The job of the translator is to make the end text understandable in whatever the end language is. (Even if you have to coin new words or find ways to explain things using existing words that weren't intended for that, like the translator of Harry Potter I mentioned above did.)

As long as the work you're outputting is based on that work (sentence for sentence or idea for idea), then you really need to treat it like a translation, in terms of sharing online. (Or you need to get permission.) Even if, in the course of doing the translation, you add a bunch of additional useful data to make it make sense in English.

The alternatives would be
- translate it and summarise it (reducing it to the core thoughts, like an article abstract would) and only share the summary (with a pointer to the original)
- to get permission to do a translation (in these days of email, often quite easy)
- or to combine it with a bunch of other sources on the same topic (i.e. *about* the subject, not just ones that help you translate that one source) and produce an article that includes information from that wide variety of sources.

Again, the guideline on the last one is "if you took out this particular source, would the rest of it hang together?" If it doesn't you may have problems. If it does then, yay, sharing of learning.
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Re: Copyright Question
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2013, 04:29:09 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;125491
snippity.

 
I would just like to say that I am in complete awe of your Librarian Badassery. Seriously. My socks have not just been knocked off but are probably in orbit by now!

I can see where I fouled up with omitting important process details in my initial post. I'm going to chalk that up to the dust-induced ninja headache I'm having tonight. You know the sort where you can't tell you got one until it's right up on you? Yeah...that.

Now that I'm clear on how to handle things, I will put it on my long-term To Do list since it looks like this autumn is going to be crappier than usual.

My many thanks to all who helped figure this out!
Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.  — Shirley Chisholm
No doubt the truth can be unpleasant, but I am not sure that unpleasantness is the same as the truth.  — Roger Ebert
It is difficult to get a person to understand something when their livelihood depends upon them not understanding it. — Upton Sinclair (adapted)
People cannot be reasoned out of an opinion that they have not reasoned themselves into. — Fisher Ames (adapted)

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