Vol. 8, No. 14, Summer 2011
Anatoly Kudryavitsky, Ireland
Haiku Poets' Last Line of Defence
You may have never thought of it but if you write a haiku you create a copyright to your poem. Here in Europe your right to be identified as the author of your text is protected by Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (also known as "(IPR) Enforcement Directive" or "IPRED"). How does it apply to haiku poets?
There were a few notorious breaches of copyright over the last few years. A certain UK resident copied haiku from a few Irish haiku sites and re-published them under his own name naively believing that they were not protected by the copyright legislation as they had initially been published outside his country. A certain Russian haiku site copied the contents of a few issues of Shamrock onto their pages; without permission, of course. In both cases it took some efforts to stop the copyright infringers.
Performing in public
The owner of a copyright work has the exclusive right to adapt or perform that work, which includes reading it in public. Reciting somebody else's work in public will therefore require permission. Actually, some authors are very cautious about allowing others to perform their works, and rightly so. So if anybody attempts to recite your poems at a public reading without your prior permission, as it recently happened in Belgium at the Ghent International Haiku Festival 2010, you should know that it is illegal. If somebody approaches you for permission, you may give your consent or not. Your no is a final no.
A translation is an adaptation, too, and will also require permission. However, despite some writers' belief that they hold the copyright to translations of their work into other languages no matter who made them, this isn't true. It is the translator who enjoys the copyright in his original expression embodied in the translation. Let us repeat it: the creator of a text owns the copyright to that text but the translator holds the copyright to his translation. The translation in itself attracts copyright in so far as the translator's skill and effort have gone into it.
Acknowledging Translators' Work
According to the European copyright law, the translator's name must always be stated in literary publications. In fact, even this basic rule is not always observed. The organirsers of the aforementioned Ghent Haiku Festival 2010 approached some of the future participants requesting that they translate a classical Flemish haiku by August Vermeylen into their languages. Our translations were later displayed on huge posters hanging around the city, as well as on the commemorative plaque displayed on one of the bridges. Translators' names... you guessed right: they were omitted.
Dealing with Publishers
This can be tricky. Of course, a professional translator won't put a pen to paper without signing a binding agreement with the publisher. This is the only safe way of doing it. You can trust a certain publisher who you think trustworthy but if you haven't signed an agreement be prepared for an unpleasant surprise, like seeing your name removed from under your translations.
How to Deal with Copyright Infringers?
Lawyers recommend that in cases like this a copyright claim should be brought in by the party deprived of their copyright.
Advice for Translators of Haiku
You surely don’t demand a publishing agreement every time somebody asks you to translate a number of haiku. But if you don’t you take chances. We have already warned our readers about the perils of self-translation (see the editorial in Shamrock No 5). Now, a new danger: everybody can Google-translate their poems, then get a native English speaker to actually translate the literals into a good English and finally remove the real translator’s name and sign their own instead. It is easy; as easy as robbing a passerby.
Of course, the readers can draw their own conclusions and give their own answer to the following questions: should we trust all of our haiku correspondents? Can Google translations be regarded as your own translations? Can the author of literal translations completely rewritten by another translator claim the copyright to the resulting texts?
The Last Line of Defence
We sadly note that publishers and event organisers of all kinds less and less respect poets and often attempt to use them. Of all poets, haiku writers suffer most. It isn’t easy to imagine a poetry festival that lasts the whole week, in the course of which period the invited poets are not allowed to read from their works even once, nor can they say anything during the so-called workshops where the participants can only listen. However, this is what actually happened in September 2010 at the Ghent International Haiku Festival where 32 widely recognised haiku poets from all over the world were well fed and well looked after but their voices were smothered by the squall of more or less melodious sounds produced by the local amateur musicians paraded in front of the poets for seven long days.
The fact of the matter is, if you turn your back on poetry it will turn your back on you. This is what arts administrators of all kinds have to bear in mind. Poets’ dignity and their moral right to be recognised as the authors of their works are their last line of defence. This is what we have to fight for – simply because we just can’t give it up. Unfortunately, these situations are not uncommon. “Pitfalls for poets are many and various,” the author Victoria Strauss once said. Let’s make sure we know how to avoid them.
(First published in Shamrock Haiku Journal No 16, 2010)