Off topic: Ethics of an independent project - translation of a published work
Thread poster: Jeff Skinner

Jeff Skinner  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 17:49
Swedish to English
+ ...
Mar 20, 2016

Hello, everyone! I've been mulling this idea over in a general sense for a few months now and have finally decided to get some outside input on whether it's worth proceeding with, and if so, how.

I've run across a multi-volume historical work originally published in Russian that I think would be of interest to a somewhat broad audience, and would like to translate it into English as a side project in my spare time. The situation as I know it regarding the works:

  • The author is deceased - in fact, the last volume was published posthumously.
  • The entire series was published within the last 30 years, so presumably they are still under copyright in Russia.
  • Parts of the work - but not the entire series - have previously been translated into English and published by a smaller, specialized publishing house.


What I'd been mulling over is trying a crowd-funded project through something like Patreon, where I'd publish a section every two weeks or so, collect donations from interested readers, and then use the money towards something like self-publication of the books as they were completed.

With that said: do I need permission for this from the copyright holder of the Russian works? What potential conflicts might I have with the publishers of the existing English translations? If it's only a matter of avoiding plagiarism, how would I go about gathering iron-clad proof it's my own work?

I'm an American citizen living and working in Sweden, so I would presume there are tax and VAT rules for donations of this type that would apply. Any other Swedes out there who happen to see this and have tips on where I could read up on all that, do please speak up!

Thanks in advance for everyone's time and help. I'm excited about actually trying to do this; I hope it's not an impossible dream.


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xxxderyaun  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2016)
English to Turkish
Interested for Ottoman side Mar 20, 2016

Hi Jeff,

I am contacting with İlber Ortaylı to bring his valuable input into the project, which I am sure he will be interested for his Ottoman-Russian History studies as well.
I am excited with this, but if you dont mind, can we continue the Project
through private e-mails please? Mine is deryauntr@gmail.com

Regards
Derya


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 09:49
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Impossible dream Mar 20, 2016

I don't like to rain on your parade but I do think this dream raises several thorny issues.

1) I think the first thing you would need to do is check into the Russian copyright - you may need a copyright lawyer to sort that out.
2) If you were to publish installments online, why would anyone send a donation to some unknown person for a project that may never see the light? It might then be better to publish on a website with restricted access, where interested people can subscribe for a reasonable fee and log in.
3) You should not re-translate parts that were already translated and published - again the issue of copyright comes into play.

What I think you could do is contact the publisher of the previously translated parts and see if they are interested in publishing more. Even then, I think your chance of success may be very small. I suspect many of us have had these wild dreams sometimes; you read a book that you think is interesting or beautiful and you think, "Gee, I would really like to translate that" but there are so many hurdles to overcome that it has to remain just a dream.

That said, maybe others have more positive reactions and suggestions to offer.


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xxxderyaun  Identity Verified
Turkey
Member (2016)
English to Turkish
Finance aside, agree Mar 20, 2016

Dear Tina,
Thank you for your valuable input.
I don't main rain pours on my parade; actually the parade gets better under rain , my personal preference.

I agree the importance of finances and therefore it should be kept aside and I immediately nominate myself to finance side of the project because there are people in Turkish Government and in Universities which may mean we dont pay a penny.

1) Agree, but I am in contact with my associates and respectable people in related fields, to see whether this will create a hurdle in Turkish translation or not. Even so, this is a money matter, if there is a copyright, we will get in touch with them for payment they request. I would suggest just go ahead with translations immediately, these are the concerns, yes, should they stop us from starting translation? No.

2) Money matter.
I think there is a need for lump-sum initial cash injection needed, I agree that initial donation will not work.

3) I would say, let's start translating first.

Regards
Derya

Tina Vonhof wrote:

I don't like to rain on your parade but I do think this dream raises several thorny issues.

1) I think the first thing you would need to do is check into the Russian copyright - you may need a copyright lawyer to sort that out.
2) If you were to publish installments online, why would anyone send a donation to some unknown person for a project that may never see the light? It might then be better to publish on a website with restricted access, where interested people can subscribe for a reasonable fee and log in.
3) You should not re-translate parts that were already translated and published - again the issue of copyright comes into play.

What I think you could do is contact the publisher of the previously translated parts and see if they are interested in publishing more. Even then, I think your chance of success may be very small. I suspect many of us have had these wild dreams sometimes; you read a book that you think is interesting or beautiful and you think, "Gee, I would really like to translate that" but there are so many hurdles to overcome that it has to remain just a dream.

That said, maybe others have more positive reactions and suggestions to offer.


[Edited at 2016-03-20 16:58 GMT]


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The Misha
Local time: 11:49
Russian to English
+ ...
Just out of curiosity, Mar 20, 2016

are you treating this here thing as a business or hobby? As a business proposition, none of what you said stacks up - and that's even BEFORE you consider the possible copyright issues.



Tina Vonhof wrote:

I suspect many of us have had these wild dreams sometimes; you read a book that you think is interesting or beautiful and you think, "Gee, I would really like to translate that"


Uh-huh, you are hiking in the country, and you see this beautiful meadow, and you think to yourself, "Gee, I would really like to dig a ditch there! For free!"

I mean, really, is this a business or a hobby? We'd all do ourselves a favor making up our minds and acting accordingly.

Me, when I have that itch, I prefer to write or paint my own - but at least I do not much expect to get paid for it.


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Jeff Skinner  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 17:49
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
A few quick responses. Mar 21, 2016

Are you treating this here thing as a business or hobby? As a business proposition, none of what you said stacks up - and that's even BEFORE you consider the possible copyright issues.


I work full-time as an in-house translator from Swedish to English, so this particular project would be more a labor of love than anything else.

Why would anyone send a donation to some unknown person for a project that may never see the light?


The intent is not ultimately to fund publication of the translation in book form, though it could be a possibility if enough people donated on a regular basis. It's much like, say, publishing a web comic and asking people to donate if they enjoy the work; it helps keep things going. There are a lot of web-based projects that use this kind of business model, whether it's something done to generate a main source of income or just a little extra cash on the side.

Even if I couldn't generate any commercial revenue from it, be it due to copyright issues or because it ultimately isn't fiscally viable, I still want to translate these books - and make the translation freely available if that's what it took.


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