Info on Translation Copyright of Public Domain Works

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Posts 1880
Philana Crouch | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Dec 4 2011 9:33 AM

Greetings Fellow Logos Users,

I know that many are of us are beginning to take advantage of the Personal Book tool in Logos 4. It is a very useful tool, and I am thankful for this gift Logos has given us.

I have also appreciated the willingness of so many users to share their efforts, both in sharing works they have created, and Public Domain works as well.

One issue that has come up in the forums is the issue of the copyright of books, specifically translations of those works. So I did some digging and thought this information might be helpful, so I thought I would share. This is based upon U.S. Copyright.

If someone wanted to post the files to create a Pereonal Book of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address you would be fine. But what if you wanted to post a translation of a work, say from Russian or German into English (done by someone else) then copyright changes. The translation of the Public Domain work becomes copyrighted, based upon the translator and how they handled the copyright. So even if the original author of a work has been dead for centuries…one of the Early Church Fathers, a recent translation could still be copyrighted.

Example using Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky as a case study.

  • Birth: November 11, 1821

  • Death: February 9, 1881

It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during 1866.It was later published in a single volume.

(via Crime and Punishment – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

So the Russian text of Dostoyevsky’s novel is in the Public Domain, but not all English translations of this work are in the public domain.

English Translations (there are several translations, but I’ll mention two)

Constance Garnett (1914)

  • in the public domain

  • since her translation was prior to 1923 it has passed into Public Domain

  • edition used in inexpensive print editions for example Barnes & Noble Classics, they don’t have to pay for the work.

  • available for free on sites like Project Gutenberg

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (1992)

  • not in the public domain

  • recent translation and translators are alive.

  • only available via retail stores or websites

This website article on Translation Copyright should be useful.

Although this was about U.S. Copyright Logos Users in the United Kingdom might want to be aware of this exception to copyright.

[edit]Perpetual copyright

Main article: Perpetual copyright

Some works may never fully lapse into the public domain. A perpetual crown copyright is held for the Authorized King James Version of the Bible in the UK.[25] While the copyright of the play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J. M. Barrie has expired in the United Kingdom, it was granted a special exception under the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988 (Schedule 6)[26] that requires royalties to be paid for performances within the UK, so long as Great Ormond Street Hospital (to whom Barrie gave the rights) continues to exist.

(via Public domain – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

I am not sure if this would affect those in the U.S.


Posts 847
Praiser | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Dec 4 2011 11:07 AM

You will also find this PDF from Cornell University helpful:



Posts 1880
Philana Crouch | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Dec 4 2011 11:35 AM


You will also find this PDF from Cornell University helpful:

Thanks this will be very helpful!


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