Assume that the author is willing to see their work translated, the translator is hired and the publication on the receiving side has been dealt with. Does the opinion of the original publishing house which currently prints the work in the language of the original, matter? Say, are they able to block the translation project altogether, are they necessarily a side participating in the negotiations, may they insist on choosing another translator or publisher (assuming that the author themselves is completely satisfied by the current arrangement?)

If the answer is very country-sensitive, consider from=Japan, to=US.

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    What is the agreement between the author and the original publisher? Without the details of that contract it is impossible to say what anybody can or can't do.
    – Nij
    Dec 14 '19 at 8:32

It depends

It depends what rights the author sold to the publisher and what rights they didn’t. The author would need to review their contract to see who has the right to authorise translations.


You need the valid permission of the copyright holder. The publisher may actually be the copyright holder, if the author sold the book including the copyright, so then obviously you need permission of the publisher. The author could have signed a contract that gives the publisher the exclusive rights to create French and Italian translations, so you could make a German or Russian translation without permission of the publisher, but would need their permission for French or Italian translations.

It all depends on what contracts the author has signed.


If the copyright on the book still holds, then a translation is a derivative work.

This may not be related to the publishing house, btw. In the US, for example, the copyright exists for X number of years after the death of the original author or Y number of years after the original publication. Even if the original author sold all rights to a publishing house, the copyright would not be held in perpetuity.

According to this Stanford FAQ

All works published in the United States before 1924 are in the public domain. Works published after 1923, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

The same link also states that

A work is considered published when the author makes it available to the public on an unrestricted basis.

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