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Need advice on US copyright laws regarding online publications
Thread poster: Özden Arıkan

Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:21
Member
English to Turkish
Jan 18, 2006

Hi all,

I have come across an Internet site using an excerpt from a translation I did years ago. I compared it line by line to the text I have, and have no doubt that it is my translation, with only one change and it's of the sort that adds insult to the injury: the text is the famous 'I Have A Dream' address by Martin Luther King, Jr. For 'God' I had used a word that meant god in the most general sense in Turkish (can be used for god, gods, the God, deity, etc.). They have changed all 'God's to 'Allah', which is indeed weird to hear from a Baptist minister So, my translation is not only used without my permission and without giving me credit, but is distorted, as well.

This website is run by Turkish community members in the USA, hence is a US enterprise. It clearly states that, "We are an American new media and telecommunications company with a virtual community of Turkish populations." I do not know anything about the US copyright laws, but assume -and hope- that they should be protecting translators' rights over their texts. I also assume that US laws should apply in this case (or am I wrong here?). I would appreciate some advice on how to proceed, what action to take, or whom to apply to first?

Thanks in advance for any help.
Özden


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:21
English to Spanish
+ ...
One question Jan 19, 2006

You do not mention whether you have copyrighted your translation. That would be the first question. Otherwise it would be hard to see that you could have any rights to defend.

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Abdellatif Bouhid  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:21
English to French
+ ...
Cost/benefit analysis Jan 19, 2006

In addition to the previous reply, may I add two points:

1. You can send a message to the organization in question. They may not be aware that there is any problem with them using the text;

2. Before launching a more ivolved action, you have to consider the cost v. the benefit and decide whether it would be worth it.

Good luck!


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Richard Creech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:21
French to English
+ ...
Some points on copyright law Jan 19, 2006

As an attorney who is also a translator, I draw your attention to the following:

1. In the United States "fair use" of copyright material is allowed. Whether use is "fair" or not depends on several factors, such as the amount of material used and whether it was for a commercial purpose.

2. In the U.S. an author may also have so-called "moral rights" that prevent unconsented modifications of his or her work.

3. Your work was copyrighted automatically when you created it, no registration is needed.

4. American law is likely what would govern your situation, although the whole issue of jurisdiction over the internet is complicated and somewhat unsettled (I gave a talk on this subject at a legal conference, so I am all too familiar with this!)

If you would like more specific advice as to your own case, please feel free to contact me directly.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:21
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Write them a letter Jan 19, 2006

Xola wrote:
I have come across an Internet site using an excerpt from a translation I did years ago. ... They have changed all 'God's to 'Allah' ... So, my translation is not only used without my permission and without giving me credit, but is distorted, as well.


I suggest you send them a friendly but firm letter telling them that the translation is not public domain (they probably found the translation and assumed it to be the "official" translation of it, whatever that means). Ask them that they do two things: firstly, they must attribute it to you, and secondly they must add in the attribution that they have changed the word "god" to "Allah". Ask them nicely... see how they react.

If you have no luck with them, write a similar message to the webmaster and explain to him (a) copyright of translations and (b) that even fair use requires attribution.

The next step after that, after a few weeks of no response, would be the ISP.


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:21
Member
English to Turkish
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you everyone Jan 19, 2006

I forgot to tell: the excerpt is taken from a book published in Istanbul, in 1995. Luckily, I happen to have a copy of it and its ISBN. (As a result of relocating every couple of years, I haven't got many of my translations with me now - OK, OK, I am disorganized and untidy, as well ) But a problem is that the publishing house that used to own the Turkish rights of the book ran out of business during the economic crisis several years ago. Still, according to Turkish copyright laws, all rights of the *translated text* belong to me. I worried a bit at the beginning, because from these forums again I have learnt that our Western European colleagues don't enjoy the copyright protection we do in Turkey. So, am glad to hear this is not the case in the USA - though, when the material is published on the Internet, things get a bit complicated, as Richard states (thank you very much for your interest, by the way, I'll contact you directly).


I will consider and try all your suggestions (including the cost vs. benefit ). It might also be that this website has taken it from yet another website: a possible case of multiple thieves who are not aware that what they do is theft! I wouldn't ask for money or anything (a credit wouldn't hurt, though), but I am very sensitive in matters of copyright and such disrespect simply makes me see red. I guess, a firm and polite letter as Samuel suggests would do, but I needed to make sure that the US laws would be on my side, and it would also be more effective if I could cite a related act in my letter

I will let you know of the outcome here. Thanks a lot again for all your inputs.

Regards,
Özden


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