Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Language and Copyright

I have little empathy for such arrests:
A young wizard of translation, who posted his own French version of the latest Harry Potter book online, has been detained and questioned by French police.
But Parisian-based publishing house Gallimard won't have its official translation into French bookstores until Oct. 26. Official Harry Potter translator Jean-Francois Menard has not yet finished work on the book, titled in French Harry Potter et les reliques de la mort.

Let's abstract from the fact the kid is 16. Harry Potter was released. Harry Potter is in the open. You went nuts over the secrecy, and released it to much fanfare. If you don't bother releasing anything but the English version, hence excluding the vast majority of the world's population from arguably the most-anticipated book release ever, do you expect people to peaceably wait a few months?

Of course, this doesn't say anything about whether such unsanctioned translations are morally upstanding. I would argue they are. If the market doesn't provide me with an option to obtain desired goods, I should not be forced to wait until the market gets around to it. In fact, prohibiting people from seeking unofficial translations lessens the incentive for the authority behind producing the translation to actually get it done well in a timely manner.

Clearly, there is no rationale for permitting the continuing distribution of unofficial translations once the French copy is available in stores, but until that point arrives, I only encourage the initiative of someone who would go to the trouble to translate for people who would likely be willing to spend the money, if only they had the option.

Disclosure: I currently have over 300 gigabytes of foreign-language media on various storage devices that I did not pay for, which was uniformly unavailable for purchase at time of downloading.

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