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Old 04-14-2017, 12:53 PM
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Nicholas F. Nicholas F. is offline
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Default Copyright and Translation Rights

Hi everyone,

First of all, apologies for asking a favor after long absence.

I'm wondering, though, if someone would be kind enough to explain matters of copyright when it comes to translating poets who are no longer living. I've noticed that some journals ask for permissions, but others don't. In case it's relevant, I should mention that the poet I'm translating has been dead for roughly 75 years. Do I need permission to publish her poems individually? What about a collection of her poems?

Thanks so much for your help! I don't know the first thing about copyright, so no response is too basic.

All best,
Nick
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Old 04-14-2017, 01:17 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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When were the poems published?
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Old 04-14-2017, 01:25 PM
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Hi Bob,

The poems were originally published between 1916 or so and 1938. Some uncollected works surely came to light much later on, but they were written during the stretch mentioned.

Nick
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Old 04-14-2017, 01:31 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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You're in the clear for those published before 1923. As to the rest, maybe not, though I don't have time right now to go into the details.
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Old 04-14-2017, 03:21 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Here is a chart that sets out most of the possibilities.

In my quite limited experience, many literary magazines don't really care all that much if you secure the rights to a given poem or two that may be under copyright. Even some that say in their guidelines that you must obtain permission, when push comes to shove they don't really require it. As a practical matter, it's hard to imagine legal action against a small literary magazine that publishes one or two poems. When publishing a book, however, things are different, and if the publisher is a large one then they are sure to have lawyers who hold you to strict legal compliance.

What I suggest you do right away is find out who holds the rights and contact them to ask permission. To protect yourself, don't concede that any copyrights exist. Just ask, in substance, whether they would be willing to let you publish translation of any poems that happen to remain under copyright protection. If their answer is yes, get them to grant formal permission and you don't have to worry about the copyright term.
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Old 04-14-2017, 04:37 PM
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All great information. Thanks so much, Bob!

Nick
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