Literary Translations - Creative Law Center

Literary Translations

Literary Translations: Artificial Intelligence, Contract, & Copyright [Live Workshop]

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a masterpiece of magical realism, is considered by many to be one of the most significant works in world literature.

Which opening sentence in English would you rather read?

  • Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
  • Many years later, facing the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía would remember that remote afternoon when his father took him to see the ice.
  • Many years later, in front of the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía would remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
  • Many years later, facing the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía had to remember that remote afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Here’s the original Spanish:

“Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo.”

Three of the sentences above were written by artificial intelligence translators. One was written by the original human translator of the novel, Gregory Rabassa.

Can you tell which was written by Rabassa?

The translation of a literary text is a derivative work, the copyright to which is owned by the translator. The right to allow someone to translate a work belongs to the author of the original work.

The relationship between the author and the translator, or the publisher and the translator is controlled by contract. Traditionally, that is.

Enter artificial intelligence — an existential threat to the livelihoods of literary translators. And an existential threat to control of the original work, if the author uses AI to translate it. Because in the United States, there is no copyright for works created by AI.

That’s what we’re going to talk about in this month’s workshop: contracts, copyrights & the use of AI in literary translation.

This workshop is being offered as a stand alone opportunity. You do not have to be a member of the Creative Law Center to attend it (members will have access, of course, and need not purchase the workshop separately). You’ll get an email with the Zoom link for Wednesday, October 25th at 1 p.m., ET once you sign up. You will have access to the replay for a year.

This is a live, interactive workshop using Zoom. You will be able to ask questions in real time, so bring your list.

By the way, the first sentence was the translation by Rabassa, the second was the translation by Bing, the third by ChatGPT, and the fourth was written by Google Translate.

Join us on October 25th at 1 p.m. ET.

About the Author

Kathryn Goldman helps small business people, writers, artists, and creative professionals make a living from their creative work by teaching them how to protect and enforce their rights. She is an attorney who writes these posts to help you be more thoughtful about intellectual property and the law as you build your business, write your stories, and create your art.

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