[quote=“ensign”]As part of my Masters degree in NZ I did a translation of a Taiwanese short story.
As I understand it, back home, I have copyright to the English translation, so no-one else can publish it, but for me to publish it, I need the permission of the original author, and to pay him fees.
Does anyone know if that is correct? And, what is the applicable law here in TW, if I wanted to publish it here or the author wanted to?
I’d like to give the author a copy of the translation, but I would really hate to find it published without my knowing.
Although I’m an attorney, this is just my brief, informal, preliminary opinion on your case, without actually looking at Taiwan’s Copyright Act, though I’ve dealt with the Act on various occasions. If some other attorney wants to comment on, confirm, or contradict what I say, that would be fine. And, if you’re really serious about publishing the work, I suggest that you actually retain an attorney to obtain genuine (paid for) opinion/advice/assistance.
I don’t know anything about NZ copyright law, but in Taiwan as in most countries, the author of a literary or musical work obtains copyright in the work automatically upon creation of the work (as a practical matter upon committing the work to a tangible, concrete form) and there is no need to file an application for registration of copyright (although in many countries, such as the US, one can also register ones work for additional rights).
In Taiwan, as in most countries, a copyright owner (the creator of the work, unless he has assigned his rights to someone else) has various exclusive rights concerning the work, including the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, sell, modify or create derivative works from the original work. A translation comprises a derivative work.
Unless you obtained permission from the author to translate his work, I don’t believe you do own copyright in the translation, as you claim. I believe you must request consent if you wish to translate it. As a practical matter it probably won’t make any difference unless you try to start selling your translation to the public – the author won’t know or care about your trivial use of his work – but, theoretically, what you’ve done already is probably illegal unless it falls within the fair use exception.
If you want to publish (and presumably distribute and/or sell) your translation, I would say you definitely must obtain consent from the author of the original work. He may request compensation or perhaps you may be fortunate and he won’t, but I would want his consent in writing before proceeding. In fact, I would expect that most reputable publishers would require his consent in writing before publishing your translation. Finally, regardless of what the law dictates, it would certainly be the proper thing to do, as a matter of common courtesy, to obtain the author’s consent in advance.