I'm thinking of translating the short stories I have written, from English to French (my mother tongue), and was wondering whether anyone could see any legal problem with it.
Basically, I have quite a few stories in English and none in French. However, I am writing a novel in French and, now that I'm coming to the end of the first draft, I'm looking into ways to get published in France. I have a small non-fiction CV in French but am not sure it will help much. That's why I'd like to translate my short stories into French and start entering competitions there too in order to build a fiction CV and get more of a chance to attract publishers' attention there (tricky, as there are virtually no agents in France and you end up in a giant slush pile on publishers' desk).
If some of my stories have been published in English, what is the legal status of their French translation? Does it still count as 'unpublished'? If I change a few things, will I be in trouble if anyone realise I've been plagiarising myself?!
I'd appreciate your advice!
Nancy, as long as you still hold the copyright to your stories, there's nothing to stop you doing whatever you want to them, including translating them.
If the stories were published in English, then I'd hope that you only granted the publisher the right to publish them, for a certain length of time, in English. This is fundamentally different from them owning the copyright.
If someone does actually now own the copyright, then you'd need to get their permission.
I don't think they'd count as 'published', because the French version is an independent entity, which hasn't been. If you're in doubt, though, the more you change, the more independent it is.
I know I've very recently seen an excellent explanation of the difference between copyright and assignement of rights, I think on Victoria STrauss's blog. I'll post the link if I can find it.
Here is Saint Victoria Strauss, on the Writer Beware blog, explaining things.
Thank you so much, Emma, that's very helpful!