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August 23, 2006
Copyright vs Scholarship
In this case it's feminist scholarship. In August of 2004, the New York Times published an op-ed by Sarah Glazer, reporting on the disgraceful state of translation of the feminist classic The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. Glazer covers in detail how the translator's ignorance of philosophy, particularly the Existential and Phenomenological philosophical traditions, led to a work that - in English - has virtually the opposite meaning of the original French.
According to a December 2005 entry in the blog Alas, there are translators and publishers who would love to re-do the translation and, presumably, correct these and other errors. However, the current publisher (Knopf) has the exclusive English-language rights locked up until the book goes into the public domain - in 2056. They are also supposedly refusing both to do an updated transation themselves, and to allow anyone else to publish one.
Don't ask me why it took me this long to hear about this. Just riddle me this: is there any scholarship or educational exception in copyright law that would let someone create a new translation from the original French? I realize one couldn't do a corrected edition of the current copyright book, but wouldn't a proper translation be sufficiently different to qualify as a new work?
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