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According to this article

Translation is typically considered a derivative work. While this varies from country to country, translation is considered derivative because it exists in relation to an original work, in this case a work of literature such as a novel or poem.

Even though it is derivative, translations are eligible for copyright as an original work. Since a translation, especially literary translation, involves considerable creative effort, labour and skill on the part of the translator it can be registered as an original work.

Thus my question is:

Is it legal to translate light novel works from Korea and publishing it on a website located in the EU ?

If it's legal, would it still be legal to do so when a US/EU company has the legal rights to translating it ?

  • Why would violating copyright be legal? – BlueDogRanch Feb 19 at 17:02
  • @BlueDogRanch you're assuming that it is violating copyright law, but translation laws change from country to country. I've updated my post. – kemicofa Feb 19 at 17:18
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I don't know of any country in which doing such a translation without permission from the copyright holder would not be an infringement of copyright. To be more positive, making such a translation would infringe copyright in every country that I am aware of unless one had permission from the copyright holder.

If done with permission, the translation would be a new work with its own copyright, again in every country that I know of.

The Berne Copyright Convention Art 2 Section 3 says:

(3) Translations, adaptations, arrangements of music and other alterations of a literary or artistic work shall be protected as original works without prejudice to the copyright in the original work.

If the original work is extensive enough and original enough to be protected by copyright, so will the translation, unless the original is primarily art, with a very short caption, say 5-6 words. The the caption alone would not be sufficient to be protected, and neither would the translation.

The translator(s) will normally hold the copyright in the translation, unless it is a work-for-hire or the copyright has been assigned/sold to someone else. The copyright holder of the original work will also have rights, including the right to prevent or permit further derivative works, as they would also derive from the original. Terms for publishing the translation would be a matter of agreement between the copyright holder on the original, and the holder on the translation.

  • Ok, so it's necessary to get permission and no other way around it. Thanks for the clarification. – kemicofa Feb 19 at 17:28
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You seem to be assuming that if the translator has copyright in a translation (which he may or may not have), the original author has no copyright in it. This is not correct; it is possible for both parties to have copyright, so that publishing requires an agreement between the two (and presumably a division of royalties or other income).

Though I am no expert in the area, it would seem that translated 'light novels' include a considerable amount of the artwork from the original, and so may not count as an original work. There is no harm in contacting the original publishers and suggesting that they may wish to buy the rights in your translation, or to agree some form of joint publishing. However, if they do not agree (which they probably won't if someone else has the English-language rights) you would be breaking copyright law to publish your translation, even if no fee was involved.

  • light novels are the text only representation of a manga but thanks for the clarification. – kemicofa Feb 19 at 17:32

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