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What rights are necessary for a version of a foreign language folktale?

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Hello, I have a rights question and was hoping someone might be able to point me in a direction for further research.

I am interested in submitting an English version of a foreign language fairy tale to an American children's magazines. The most common source for the fairy tale in its original language is a version written in Italian in 1983. There are other sources as well, including English translations, but all the translations I have found are for academic purposes. I do speak and write in Italian, however my version is not just a translation, but rather a new version that puts the story into a context that is accessible to 21st century English-speaking children.

How can I find out what permissions I need to submit a new version of this story that is drawn largely on the 1983 Italian version as well as other sources? Is listing the sources in a bibliography enough, since it is a classic fairy tale? Any suggestions of where I can research this thoroughly?

Thank you!
#1 - May 26, 2016, 10:43 PM

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Hi Christine,

Sorry for this late reply. One question I have is, is your telling fairly close to the 1983 Italian-language version? If so, have you considered working it up -as- a translation, in which case credit would go to the original author as well as to you? This is one of the deeply satisfying aspects of translation.

As for what to do if your version is an adaptation, my instinct would be to include the bibliography for sure, for both Italian- and English-language sources, and to obtain formal permission from rights-holders for any aspects of your telling that your gut tells you are quite close to published material.

If I learn anything further I'll be sure to share!

Best,

Avery Udagawa
#2 - June 14, 2016, 06:38 AM

Thank you so much, Avery!

While this one is really a new version based on the original story, I would be very interested in writing translations of selections from the author's collection of folktales/fairy tales. I just have never known how to get into this type of work, and I have always been intimidated by my lack of understanding on how to get started.  Do you have any suggestions, resources, or links? Thanks in advance!
#3 - June 14, 2016, 02:33 PM

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Hi Christine,
Uma Krishnaswami, in her website FAQs (https://umakrishnaswami.org/faqs/), has a great section on retelling traditional tales for children.

I also suggest searching Jane Yolen to see what she has to say on this topic.

Search also Debbie Reese--she has written about the danger of relying on unreliable "fakelore."

In general, find the earliest sources possible so that your retelling bears no resemblance to a story already written--in any language. And read those early sources with a critical eye.

Or, as Avery suggests, try working on this as a translation.

Good luck!
Holly Thompson

#4 - June 14, 2016, 04:36 PM
Holly Thompson
SCBWI Japan Regional Advisor
Editor, SCBWI Guide to International School Visits
Author: www.hatbooks.com
@hatbooks

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Hi Christine,

>While this one is really a new version based on the original story, I would be very interested in writing translations of selections from the author's collection of folktales/fairy tales.

If you undertake to translate this author, definitely contact her or the person listed as copyright holder to the collection. Any translation requires having contact with and permission from the rights holder. In addition, nurturing a relationship with the author helps when you need to ask questions as you work.

If you register as a Translator member of SCBWI (this can be in addition to Writer), I can add you to SCBWI's worldwide Translation listserv where topics such as as these can be discussed with other member translators. To learn more, feel free to contact me at itc [at] scbwi.org.

Best,

Avery Fischer Udagawa
SCBWI International Translator Coordinator
SCBWI Japan Translator Coordinator
#5 - June 14, 2016, 05:19 PM

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P.S. Christine, I also received this response from Nanette McGuinness on the Translation listserv (mentioned in my previous reply):

Here's my answer to this for the BlueBoard, based on my experience with rights, in general: How close are you sticking to the 1983 version?  If you're adapting the folk tale using 3-5 sources that's one thing and a bibliography will do the trick. If you're using the Italian as your primary source, then you probably need to get the rights. 

However, you should ideally get a real answer from a lawyer, and as I recall, there's one who does a column for the SCBWI magazine--at least I think so... If it's still there, why don't you email the question for her to answer?  If not, you have two options: 1) Email her through SCBWI if she's a member; 2) consult an arts pro-bono legal association (they exist) and get an opinion.

Best of luck!
Nanette
#6 - June 14, 2016, 05:23 PM

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P.P.S. Christine, here is another response that came through on the Translation listserv:

Hi, in my experience, because I've published Mexican folktales in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and the US, is to list, if possible, all the sources for the tale. I say "if possible" because not all publishers will include them in the book. However, I have them on hand at home just in case. The book published in the US, Whiskers, Tails and Wings-Animal Folktales from Mexico, had a very extensive bibliography, including internet sources, at the end. I asked a lawyer in Mexico about this but legislation is different in every country so consulting one is a good idea. I hope this helps.

Judy Goldman
RA Mexico
#7 - June 15, 2016, 04:46 PM

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Holly, thank you for those great suggestions. I will look into the resources you suggested.

Avery, thank you so much for taking the time to help. I realized my SCBWI membership has lapsed but I'd love to join the list serve when I renew. I definitely feel there is room for more translations of these stories. There are some, but not tons, of Italian folktales in translation available. So many great stories not being shared. I've noticed that most of the translations available are for academic purposes and would not grab a child reader. Thanks for the advice and encouragement.
#8 - June 15, 2016, 07:22 PM
« Last Edit: June 16, 2016, 02:41 PM by Christine B. »

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Avery -- I renewed my SBCWI membership and will email you about the listserv! Thanks again for all of your help!
#9 - June 16, 2016, 12:57 PM
« Last Edit: June 16, 2016, 02:41 PM by Christine B. »

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