Book Translation: do I have to receive permission from the author or the publisher?
Thread poster: Janine Ingram

Janine Ingram
Local time: 20:51
English to German
+ ...
Jul 1, 2009

I have translated a book for a person who is not the publisher or the author. They are using it for private use only. Do I have to receive permission from the author or the publisher.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-07-03 11:28 GMT]


Local time: 03:51
French to English
+ ...
Almost certainly not Jul 7, 2009

You need seek permission only to distribute your translation: in book form, on the Internet, as an audio file, and so on. As long as the person you're translating for doesn't turn around and start distributing it himself, you'll be okay.

And if the work is in the public domain (usually seventy-five years after the death of the creator) you'll be in the clear at all events.


Brian Young  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:51
Danish to English
translation rights Mar 5, 2010

You can translate anything you want. As stated above, it is the publication and distribution that would require permission, unless the work is in the public domain. In the US you can easily get a formal copyright on your translation, over the internet, from the appropriate government office. In Denmark it is 70 years after the author's death. You should check for the country where your author lived.


Claudio Brandt  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:51
English to Portuguese
+ ...
US copyright Mar 6, 2010

Hi Janine,
In the U.S., the copyright also expires 70 years after the author's death for works originally published since 1978. Please check this Wikipedia entry for a table with more details and information about other countries.

[Edited at 2010-03-06 00:10 GMT]


VeMetten (X)
Local time: 03:51
English to Dutch
+ ...
Translating but not publishing Jan 31, 2012

I have almost the same question as Ms. Ingram, and would like some more details.

Recently I read a non fiction book that I would like to translate for some of my friends and family (I really think the information in the book is very valuable). I do not want to publish it or make any money out of it, I just want to give it to some people, who I think will benefit from it.

I have contacted the publisher (US) and they told me the translation rights have not been sold yet.

Do I still need to ask their permission, because I want to give it to several people?
I have the original book as en eBook, so I would like a copy in another format. Can I just ask this or will a publisher never give this?
If I don't need the permission of the publisher, do I still need to put a small text in my translation stating for example that I translated it on my own and it cannot be copied?
What do you recommend?

I am not a professional translator, so I have no experience with these issues.
Thank you in advance for your advice.


Just Opera
Local time: 03:51
French to English
+ ...
Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works says: Feb 1, 2012

Article 8: Right of Translation

Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall enjoy the exclusive right of making and of authorizing the translation of their works throughout the term of protection of their rights in the original works.

i.e. If it's under copyright you have to ask permission. If the author retains the publishing rights then it is from them, if not then from the publisher.

Of course this also depends upon the "rights in the original works". i.e. if the work is public domain, under a copyleft license (where the only stipulation is to copy the work under the terms of the original license) or even explicitly published non-copyright.

Also there is the question of "fair use", but that normally only exempts documentary snippets, educative use, satires or parody.


VeMetten (X)
Local time: 03:51
English to Dutch
+ ...
More research Feb 3, 2012

Thank you very much for this information and the links.
I already looked for some information about copyrights, but I will need to research a lot more before I continue this project.


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