Translating ‘creative commons’/Übersetzung von “creative commons”

I heard my name mentioned on Blogalization, where iggy has been discussing the difficulty of translating the term ‘creative commons’ into Spanish, quoting this note from the Spanish translator of a Cory Doctorow essay on E-Books:

bq. This text originally dealt with what in North American law is called the “public domain,” the place where texts whose copyrights have expired end up. The meaning of “dominio público” in Spanish law, however, which follows the European tradition of authorial rights, is different from that of “public domain” …

iggy wonders:

bq. Is the notion of the “creative commons” Anglocentric? Does it presuppose the framework of the English common law, and is it translatable into the terms of other legals systems (such as Brazil’s Roman and Napoleonic legal system)? How do such questions affect the ongoing project for the international commons, which aims to “port” the Creative Commons license in collaboration with local initiatives such as International Commons Spain and International Commons Brazil?

This is quite clearly a question for Professor Lenz, who teaches German law in Japan and has weblogs in English, German and Japanese, and who is my authority for us being cautious about creative commons.

I don’t know this area. But this is my feeling: it isn’t a common law / civil law question, for all the term ‘commons’ is used (I’ve already pointed out today that there are several meanings of ‘common law’, and here’s another term). Well, it is, but not because the difference between the copyright systems is rooted in the two legal systems and could never be changed. But there is a difference in that I think you can’t 100% give your copyright away in German law – that’s what they mean by ‘authorial’. I don’t even know what the situation is in England; hasn’t it changed in that direction too (asserting one’s ‘moral rights’, for instance). Anyway, that doesn’t really matter, because you can still give the rights of use, give as much as you can. If you call it creative commons, it just won’t go quite as far as it would in the USA (is that correct, experts?). The problem was that under creative commons you remained liable for throughput. Professor Lenz highlighted

I see there are new creative commons licences out today (2.0), incidentally.

But the main point of this late – or early – post is to publicize the translation question.

4 thoughts on “Translating ‘creative commons’/Übersetzung von “creative commons”

  1. I am sorry to say that I am probably not the best authority for Spanish translation (though I might be able to find my way through a Spanish text on a good day).

    However, if the question is whether the concept of Creative Commons is limited to Common Law countries, I would say that I don’t think so, and that I agree with the post above.

    Basically, the Creative Commons licenses grant certain rights to users. That seems to be possible even in a copyright system that doesn’t allow complete transfer of author’s rights (as in Germany, Article 29 German copyright law).

    On the other hand, the various projects to adapt Creative Commons licenses to different jurisdictions are necessary for a reason. The original licenses are devised with American law in mind, and might need more or less changes on the background of Spanish copyright law.

  2. On the question of translation, I presume “commons” here is a reference to land held in common, and I further presume most languages have a word for that. In Spanish, for instance, it’s ejido (‘common, communal land’), so why not ejido creativo?

  3. @Prof. Lenz: yes, I think probably to a non-lawyer the terms ‘common law’ and ‘commons’ sound close, and that’s where the idea comes from that it’s a common-law thing. Must read up on this.
    @ language hat: I am sure that’s right. But I haven’t finished with this topic. Commons with an S seems to be a variant in the U.S. I can’t saying about ejido creativo. I suppose it depends how strongly the word evokes land, how far-fetched it would sound in Spanish. There are discussions here:
    http://creativecommons.org/projects/international/
    I think they’re probably keeping the English name and just translating / adapting the legal content.

  4. Yes. Lang. Hat’s ejido creativo, though not Googling too well, could well work. However, I’ve seem more figurative use of ejido in Lat. Am, rather than in Spain.

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