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Translations and copyright

Chris JHolland5 June 2019

A recent enquirer asked about producing a digital version of a book which included two contributions in English by well know Czech political figures. Both the authors had died before 1949. Given that the usual copyright term of the author’s lifetime plus 70 years would apply, it follows that the published works of both authors  are out of copyright in the UK (and the EU generally), so both contributions may be digitised and made available without permission.

However, one needs to bear in mind that translations are also protected by copyright and for the same term. So that if the works had been translated into English by someone other than the author in each case, one would also need to investigate the identity and dates of the translator, in order to be certain that no additional permissions were required.

 

 

Psychometric scales, copyright protection and translation

Chris JHolland17 November 2017

A UCL researcher recently asked a series of questions about obtaining copyright permission to reproduce a published psychometric scale in the researcher’s own paper:

Q. Would the scale itself be protected by copyright?

A. Yes, if it is the original creation of the author(s) it will benefit from copyright protection, in which case permission is required to reuse it lawfully.

Q. What are the copyright implications of translating the scale into another language in order to apply it in a different cultural context?

A. Translation is a type of “adaptation” which is one of the activities restricted by copyright law – Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, Section 16(1)(e)

Therefore you do need permission if you want to publish a translation of someone’s work or make it available to the public etc. Interestingly your translation will also benefit from separate copyright protection as long as it has been made with permisssion from the owner of copyright in the original work.

Q. Can I then publish my paper under a Creative Commons licence (CC licence)?

A. By all means, as long as you are happy for people to reuse  your work freely under the terms of the chosen CC licence. It is impoortant to underline that you cannot licence the reuse of someone else’s work without their permission. Therefore you must include separate copyright information on any quotations of other people’s work, along with the usual acknowledgements of author and source,  to make it clear that it is not covered by the CC licence you are applying to your own work. This would also apply to the psychometric scale. It is important to note that having made your work available under a Creative Commons licence you cannot change your mind and withdraw the licence from people who are already making use of it.

 

Just sign on the dotted line…

Chris JHolland30 April 2015

Publisher contracts can vary quite a lot, but in the case of traditional book publishing it is common for the publishers to expect the copyright in the work to be assigned to them. Before you accept the agreement it is worth taking a critical look at the details. While the publisher is usually in a more powerful position, you could still try to negotiate if there are aspects which you don’t like.

An alternative would be for you to retain the copyright and grant the other publisher a licence to publish for example, which means that you have not entirely surrendered the Intellectual Property rights in the book. Even if the publisher is amenable to this suggestion, they may still insist upon an all encompassing exclusive licence and a cynic might say there is no practical difference to assigning the copyright.

If copyright is assigned, the publisher may also grant you a licence to make use of your own work in certain ways, such as reproducing extracts on your personal or institutional website. It is always worth pressing the publisher about any specific use of the work you would wish to make. Recently a UCL academic author was concerned that assigning the copyright in his work (as requested) would prevent him from translating and publishing the work in his native language (Portuguese) at a future date. The author was right to be concerned, since copyright includes the right to produce an adapted version, such as a translation. The answer: negotiate on that point with the publisher to see whether they will licence that particular right back to you.

Performing Poetry at a Public Event

Chris JHolland24 April 2015

A UCL department was planning a poetry performance to mark the WW1 centenary. The readings would be mainly of complete poems by authors of various nationalities. Where the original works were in a language other than English a translation would also be read either from a published source or translated into English by one of the team organising the event. What are the copyright issues and how should they be addressed?

Performance of copyright works is one of the activities restricted by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). Faced by this question, it is important to know whether the performances are internal to UCL and will be attended solely by our students and staff. If it were purely internal then the event would be covered by a copyright exception in Section 34 of the CDPA for performances within educational establishments. Had that been the case then there would have been no need to request permission to perform the works.

As it was, members of the public would be invited to attend the event and there would be a small entry charge to cover expenses, so Section 34 did not help us. The answer then was that, in so far as the works were still in copyright, it was necessary to seek permission from each copyright owner. Translating a work into another language is also a restricted act (a form of “adaptation”). It follows that where UCL people were producing an English translation for the occasion, they would really need the copyright owner’s permission to do so. If they were reading a published translation then that performance would also require permission, since the translation would also be protected by copyright (separate from the copyright in the original)