How do you say “copyright” in Zulu?

Lea Shaver

Associate ProfessorLea Shaver taught at Yale Law School and Hofstra Law School before joining the IU McKinney School of Law faculty in 2012. She holds a J.D. From Yale Law School and an M.A. from the University of Chicago. Professor Shaver was a summer clerk to Hon. David F. Hamilton and a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa, where she supported litigation advancing the constitutional rights to housing, education, and water. Her research focuses on intellectual property, innovation, access, and human rights.

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6 Responses

  1. Joey Fishkin says:

    Fascinating stuff, Lea.

    I’m curious what you mean by treating different languages differently. It seems to me (as someone with dangerously little knowledge of this field) that if somebody publishes a book in one language, they currently have some rights regarding translations and other derivative works regardless of language or medium. Is the idea to introduce distinctions there, so that the baseline of rights will look different regarding the French translation vs. the Zulu translation of an English book? Or is your proposal more to do with original, non-derivative works written in Zulu?

    Anyway, look forward to these posts.

  2. Lea Shaver says:

    Yes, that’s exactly the idea.

    Currently under either South African or US copyright law, you can’t translate a work without the copyright owner’s permission. Interestingly, that wasn’t always the case.

    In the nineteenth century it was considered legitimate in many countries to translate a work without authorization. European publishers lobbied to secure the “translation right” through international treaties around the turn of the twentieth century.

    Policy makers in India objected at the time that this would greatly impede their ability to make books available in Indian languages. But the British Empire signed off on the treaty effort over its colony’s objections.

    To me that outcome was tragic because a win-win compromise was available, but India lacked the bargaining power to push for it. All the European publishers really cared about were translation rights in the profitable markets.

    So yes, this is about liberalizing the rules to make it easier to produce translations in languages with under-served publishing markets. But it’s also about more than that…

    In my mind, the translation of existing works into Zulu is merely a good start. I view translation as a means to the broader end of encouraging a larger Zulu readership and a vibrant market that creates opportunities for authorship of original works in Zulu.

    Translations are the low-hanging fruit, an easy way to prime the pump and establish new publishing markets. But the end goal is the flourishing of a Zulu language literature that includes plenty of works – both translated and original.

  3. Matt says:

    I’d be curious to know how much of the problem is from copyright as such, as opposed to the general expense of translation. I’d guess that the potential profits from books in Zulu isn’t extremely great. Is there much of a market for books in the public domain to be translated? If not, that might indicate that the problem is that there’s not a lot of money to be made there, after the costs of translation is included. Or is it, you think, that publishers (and perhaps authors) want unreasonably high payments for the translation rights? If that’s so, would it make sense to just show what the potential market is, and show that it’s better to get some small profit from the Zulu market than no profit at all?

  4. Lea Shaver says:

    Great question, Matt! I decided to dedicate a whole post to it:

  5. Lea Shaver says:

    Ah, I didn’t address your last question: Do copyright holders demand unreasonably high payments? But Buccafusco & Sprigman did a great experiment, which I think suggests unreasonable demands are likely to be a problem.

    You can read about it here:

  6. Lea Shaver says:

    An update… my article is now available at SSRN, and forthcoming from the Washington University Law Review: