Translation, Copyright & Authority.

Alan Cunningham

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The UK copyright law regime presents the “right to adapt” as the sole, authoritative instrument in matters of legitimising translation; a legal ‘Big Other’ conferring an otherwise unreal objective commodity status on what are instead always only ever individual and subjective acts of translation.
Drawing primarily on the work of Theo Hermans, and the experiences of poet Jack Underwood in unsuccessfully attempting to formally translate poems by Mascha Kaléko, this article argues for (a) the development and (at the very least) implicit recognition of deviationist and subversive ‘translative replies’ within – or at the very least alongside – the traditional UK legal schema and (b) a softening of the UK right to adapt by application of the ‘integrity’ moral right to translations.
In addition, a deeper quasi-Ungerian notion of institutional change that accommodates both principles (e.g. ‘legitimate’ translations can, of course, be argued to exist, to which copyright accords) and counter-principles (there are also, however, in the long term only multiple acts of translation, some preferred and commoditized, some existing outside that sphere, less ‘functional’ and more creative/expressive but no less important and not to be prevented for those reasons) can also be advanced.
Finally, a much broader critical point regarding the nature and role (or non-role) of law in the context of creative practices more generally can also be presented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-391
Number of pages31
Issue number2
Early online date5 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2018


  • Intellectual Property
  • Copyright
  • Translation
  • Moral Rights
  • Critical Legal Theory


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