A Tale of Two Authors: Why Translations Happen, or Don't.

(Translations: Français)

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Why don't books get translated?

If you think it's because it's hard to find willing translators, or because the skills required are too rare, I'd like to offer two case studies below that point to another explanation:

The reason translations don't happen is that we prohibit them. That is to say, translations are what happens naturally, except when copyright restrictions suppress them.

If you're skeptical, consider the following tale of two authors, one whose books are free to be translated by anyone, another whose books are not.

We'll even stack the deck a bit. The author whose books are freely translatable will be a relatively minor author, one whose books are not, to be perfectly honest, of earth-shaking importance. Whereas some of the the books by the other author are acknowledged masterpieces in their original language, and you will see quotes from a prominent scholar about how the absence of translations is "one of the great intellectual scandals of our time".

What would you say to Peter?

Peter Jaworski is a contributor to the libertarian Canadian blog The Volunteer.  In a post reprinted below, he wrestles with the idea of intellectual property, proposals to reform copyright law, and the use of copyleft licenses.  We ran across his essay because he draws extensively on the comic strips (and one of the Minute Memes) of Nina Paley, artist-in-residence here at QuestionCopyright.org.  Peter's discussion expresses very well the deliberations of many people who are open to the critiques and proposals advanced on this site but who are, nevertheless, hesitant.

We're reprinting it here partly to get your reactions.  Peter is honest about his emotional response to the idea that someone who puts a lot of effort into their art is entitled to something -- reward, or control, or recognition -- and this makes him doubt his support for sharing.  Interestingly, he reverses the usual position: he says "on most days, I [...] think intellectual property is bunk. But I'm open to being persuaded, if you've got a good story to tell."  He starts from a pro-sharing stance, but wonders if he's right.  People like Peter are the "independent voters" of the copyright reform movement, if you will, and understanding their instincts is central to our mission.  What would you ask Peter?

Mimi and Eunice: Hyphenated Liberty

by Peter Jaworski on November 3, 2010

Hyphenated Liberty

Mimi and Eunice is a cartoon strip drawn by Nina Paley. Nina does not believe in intellectual property. She lets just anyone reprint her comic strips, provided no one pretends that the work is theirs. That’s the only restriction she views as legitimate — no fraud or attempt to mislead people about the originator of the work.

Nina endorses “copyleft.” Go ahead and click the link for an explanation. For an extended explanation of just what copyleft means, and why Nina is often grumpy, check out her blog post on the branding confusion with Creative Commons licences here.

Here’s a little video she put together highlighting her views on the difference between ordinary theft, and intellectual property “theft":


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