Friday, January 13, 2006

Unauthorized translations: differing views on intellectual property

Imagine that you are an academic author, who writes articles and publishes them without expectation of payment. Imagine finding out that someone has translated one of your articles, published a copy, and self-archived for open access a copy of the translation. This actually happened to someone I know, recently.

What would you think about this? How would you feel?

You might think that they should have asked your permission to translate your article. But then again - can you be sure that they didn't? Is it possible they read your language well enough to translate, but don't speak it as well? Could someone have approached you at a conference in the past, told you they loved your article, and would like to share it with colleagues in their country? Could you have said something someone else interpreted as permission to translate, without realizing it?

Or is it possible that this situation came about because different peoples have different ways of understanding intellectual property? What is obviously mine in my society might be obviously ours in a Latin or Native American culture. This is a foreign concept to people from my culture - the idea that everything belongs to everyone. It certainly is a foreign one to me - but a pleasant one, an idea that grows on me the more I think of it.

As for my work, anything on Poetic Economics can be translated by anyone, without asking permission. This is part of what is meant by the Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike Creative Commons License. If anyone ever does translate my work, I would very much like to hear about it - to place a link on Poetic Economics for the benefit of anyone else who speaks that language, too.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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