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Copyright and Translation: Help Your Community Yourself

Blog writing tips and articlesIt is my copyright policy to not permit literal translation of my content into another language without permission. And in general, I rarely give permission.

Whoa! Does this sound like it goes against Lorelle’s policy of open, transparent, fair, and equal communication and breaking down the language barriers? Nope. It is within my policies.

Translation is an art and a skill. It is not to be taken lightly. As I’ve said many times, it takes only one word to change the whole context of a statement, thus, translations need delicate care in construction and intention.

And copyright violations are copyright violations even though they are violated across languages.

There is another very important reason I’m against literal translation of my content without permission. I’m not against translation. I’m against stealing in any language.

It’s my words. You come up with your own.

I love it if you use my blog’s content for inspiration, jumping off on one thought and chasing it with one of your own. I write weekly on how to encourage you to think your own thoughts, and translate them into content on your blog, no matter where the source of inspiration lies.

Copycatting doesn’t count. It’s plagiarism. It’s illegal. And it does nothing to further the conversation.

Copy of one of my articles in Japanese, a copyright violation - copyright Lorelle VanFossenRecently, Understanding The WordPress Post Title and Post Slug was copied and translated into Japanese, complete with my examples. I might not have noticed from the trackback if it weren’t in English and featured my examples and blockquotes, in direct violation of my copyright policy.

I’ve been told repeatedly over the years by those who violate my copyright in translation that bloggers in those languages are suffering as they are bereft of access to my content. “We need what you have to say so we can learn!”

That’s nice, but if you read my articles and learn from them, and put them to use on your blogs, write the instructions from your perspective, not mine.

My perspective on the issue is mine, not yours, and possibly not applicable to your culture nor country’s technology.

Copyright violation of a translation of this article, copyright Lorelle VanFossenIn this case, the issue of permalinks and post slugs get very complex when they are a combination of English and Japanese characters, so much of my post’s information does not apply to the needs of Japanese language bloggers. I saw nothing in what I could understand that went beyond the copying and translating of my article to cover those specific issues.

I found many other blog posts translated on WordPress and SEO techniques on that site, which say they are translations, though I’m not sure they had permission to translate those articles. I know I wasn’t asked, so I can assume others weren’t asked. Many of these articles also do not apply to Japanese language bloggers, so such work may be nice but inapplicable.

Why not help your community by writing WordPress and blogging tips in your language with tips that apply to your community?

This blogger has missed out on a fabulous opportunity to become the “source” for their native speaking bloggers. Instead of writing directly to them, being the “Lorelle” for their community, they are providing information that is possibly inaccurate and inapplicable. And now they are a copycat. They’ve lost so much by not thinking for themselves and using their words.

Again, translating content without permission may be a violation of a copyright holder’s policy. Please check first, ask first, and if you don’t get permission, get creative and write your own version.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.


  1. James
    Posted December 12, 2007 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Mhm, it seems your policy about translations contradicts the Creative Commons license. Maybe you have to choose a more strict one.

  2. Posted December 12, 2007 at 11:57 am | Permalink


    Good point. They keep changing the licenses as things evolve and I haven’t checked them lately. Still, the Creative Commons licenses are not “law”. My definition of my copyright policy defines my use, which is helped by Creative Commons. I’m debating continuing to promote their efforts due to this inconsistency and lack of law to support them, but it’s still a good cause and I’m watching them evolve, which is why I continue to include them in my sidebar.

  3. Posted December 12, 2007 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been amazed at how many sites there are out there that “appropriate” content from other blogs and websites. That’s bad enough, but when you look at the rest of the material on the page it is obvious that the “author,”…and I use that term loosely…put the site up as an attempt to make money.

    It’s sad that so many are trying to benefit financially from the work of others.

  4. robinandraenelle
    Posted December 12, 2007 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. I know this misses your main point of people copying directly, translating, and posting on their own site, but how do you feel about translation services, like Google’s language tools? Your point (which I agree with) that “it takes only one word to change the whole context” of a sentence suggests that you wouldn’t want an inaccurate translation at all. When Google translates a page, who’s content is it? And now that the community at-large can suggest better translations, the masses are contributing to the meaning of your work, and not you. Do Google language tools violate your copyright?

  5. Posted December 13, 2007 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    That’s an important post. One of the biggest sins regarding this copyright infringement area irregardless as to the language issue I think is the plain “laziness” issue which you don’t really speak to here (probably for good reason), but I think it factors. “Why create your own original thought when stealing is so much faster and easier,” I think unfortunately is a pretty significant barrier not just in blogging but throughout the internet. Until one of two things happen it will continue to be a problem: 1) make it too risky to thieve (ie penalize to the point folks stop doing it—unlikely). 2) Make it practically difficult to steal–probably much more likely.
    Thanks for the post Lorelle. As always thought provoking.

  6. Posted December 13, 2007 at 11:00 am | Permalink


    Google’s machine translation, as well as the other online translations, are “translating” not publishing nor claiming the content as their own. It’s my site with the contents translated.

    It’s clear that we still need to do more to educate the masses on what copyright really covers and means and how it is violated.

    Just know this. If you are going to use any content, be it photograph, video, or words, that doesn’t belong to you and you had nothing to do with its creation, ASK FIRST.

    They might say yes.

  7. robojiannis
    Posted December 13, 2007 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    The notion of an author – as the explicit creator, solely getting credit for his/her work – is quite contemporary.
    A direct control of the translations of any online post, is not (until today) possible; and if it were it would ruin the biggest asset of the web: decentralization.
    An indirect control, is on the other hand possible and actually very common. A english speaking japanese user, who would read a false translation (or a copy of your post), could potentially expose such dishonest behavior.
    I also disapprove copycats and bad translations (especially when done without my permission), but it is a price I’m willing to pay for a self-organizing web.

  8. Posted December 13, 2007 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Talking about translation machines (Google, Babel Fish, or whatever), how accurate are they in doing the translations? I am not sure whether they translate word by word, or whether they are actually intelligent enough to get what the sentence is all about. I am sure some words have more than one meaning, no matter what language you use. So the risks of wrong translations are quite high. I suppose this can be avoided by directly quoting the post, mentioning the name and site of the author.

    What’s your opinion on this, however? Is it acceptable? Will that infringe your copyright policies?

  9. Posted December 13, 2007 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    @Awangku Yusli:

    Again, if you translate one of my articles in order to read it, using whatever machine translator is available, that isn’t a copyright violation. Sure, machine translations are not always accurate, but they are improving.

    If you take one of my articles and translate it, through any method, and publish it, THAT is a copyright violation.

    If you take a small quote from one of my articles, 400 words or 10% of the article, and translate it, that qualifies as Fair Use under my copyright policy, as long as you give credit where credit is due.

  10. Posted December 13, 2007 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    as we say in greece:

    …translation is like a woman
    when is faithful, isn’t pretty
    and when is pretty, isn’t faithful…

  11. Posted December 14, 2007 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Good point Lorelle!
    I’m running a small blog on WordPress tips, plugin’s and themes reviews, etc, for the italian WP community. There is in fact a large need of “native language” content, even larger as the WP popularity grows.

    But what I discovered from the’s (my blog) early days is that if you want to provide useful information to your local readers you cannot just translate articles, you have to “localize” them, adatp it to your audience.
    Obviously I often (always?) benefit from others blogs ideas, links, argumentation, but if you want YOUR readers, you have to feed them with YOUR content.


8 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  4. […] Copyright and Translation: Help Your Community Yourself – This article reminds everyone that if you want to translate an article and publish it on your blog – ASK FIRST. You might get a yes, but more importantly, to do so without permission is a violation of copyright and can land you in more hot water than you might need. If you really want to help your community, then rewrite the tip in your language in your words so it serves your community and isn’t a direct translation. […]

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  6. […] that Lorelle – who actually allows derivative works under the CC license she publishes under – doesn’t want others to translate her content, but does link to faulty Google translation versions of each of her […]

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