From Libre Accèss (translated into English):
The writer François Bon, the publisher publie.net, and its distributors received today a letter from Gallimard Editions, demanding the takedown of a new French translation of “The Old Man and the Sea” just issued by François Bon on Publie.net (see François Bon’s post on his site). Gallimard’s letter reminded the recipients that it owns the publishing rights (digital ones included) for any French edition of the work (not only the 1954 translation by Jean Dutourd sold by the former Sebastien Bottin Street publishing house) : this unauthorized translation is therefore counterfeit.
Acknowledging its error, Publie.net immediately removed the book from its site, and so did the distributors.
Such a mistake is obviously due to the intricacy of copyright(en), which differs in duration according to the birth country of the authors and the countries it applies to. For instance, while the work of Ernest Hemingway is totally free of copyright starting this year in Canada, where the 50 years after death rule applies (Hemingway committed suicide in 1961).
. . . .
Therefore, it’s not the case in France. Gallimard owns the rights to all French translations until these enter the public domain in the US, because, as Numerama mentioned, article L123-12 of the (French) intellectual property code mandates a protection period equivalent to the one from the country of origin of the work, i.e. 2047.
. . . .
Only Gallimard can authorize a translation of “The Old Man and the Sea” in France, in particular to update it and render it more faithful to the original – which is clearly not true of the antiquated and approximate translation by the French academic. Gallimard is the only one who may authorize it because it obtained a grant from the original publisher, not limited to the translation itself but to the specified country and language. More or less as in good old colonial times… These rules create serious problems in other French-speaking countries, as they impose a market almost always unadapted to the economic constraints of these countries.
All this is just to say that François Bon’s translation could well be published in Canada. But not in France.
. . . .
This is just another story, yet emblematic of the ever increasing disconnection between creation and law, sharing and property. It’s been quite a while now that copyright is no longer the heir to that created during the Enlightenment, but has become an instrument in the hands of cultural industries to impose their law. Copyright has become a but an – ever higher – barrier to block creation and sharing. What this story shows once again is that time has come to lay out in detail the fundamentals of creation that have been gradually appropriated by the cultural industries who have imposed a lengthening of right for their own profit and to the detriment of sharing and creativity.
. . . .
Truly, as Rémi Mathis, chairman of the board of Wikimédia France, said on Twitter : “after 50 years, can Le vieil homme et la mer (“The Old Man and the Sea”) still lawfully belong to a rights holder when it belongs to the imagination of the whole world ? The term of a patent, that is to say an industrial title deed, is on average only 20 years. How can it be longer for art or creation ? In my lifetime, will I ever have the right to read a translation of Hemingway’s work other than Jean Dutourd’s ?
Link to the rest at Libre Accèss and thanks to Antoine for the tip.
Passive Guy is a believer in strong copyright protections, but feels the current standard in the US – the life of the author plus 70 years – and similar standards around the world provide protection for much too long.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution provides the rationale for copyright protection:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
Note the purpose of these protections is to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts”, not to protect the rights of heirs of authors to royalties for the remainder of the heirs’ lives. The protection is to be for “limited times” and PG believes the life of the author plus 70 years is not a limited time in the sense used in the cited clause.
The first US copyright law, passed in 1790, provided protection for 14 years after registration of the copyright with the right to renew the copyright for another 14 years.