I am planning to translate a paper and distribute it with my name as translator with a license that permits free redistribution of the work with my copyright notice and welcomes donation support. What type of license should I follow and incorporate into the work?
As Kitsune pointed out, I should also consider the original document's license agreement, as the document says educational non-profit uses are allowed, I think it should be OK to translate and distribute the translated version, though translation has not been directly addressed in the source paper. Here is the notice under the paper's first page:

Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.

2 Answers 2


Sorry, either I didn't read closely enough, or you've added details.

In general, the original author has copyright everywhere. At least in the US, you aren't even allowed to publish a translation without the original copyright holder's permission, because only the copyright holder has the right to decide to publish or not.

Also, fair use isn't in play because translation is derivative. If you were writing a parody, or changing the characters and settings around in a novel, that would be transformative and allowed.

Translations count as republishing, so your question is answered at the end of the provided copyright statement: "to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee."

You just need to ask nicely, explain why you're doing this (expanding the reach of their work, helping science, whatever), explain you'll keep their copyright clause, and get permission to "publish" the translation (with your translation attribution).

My original answer:

I recommend you examine the Creative Commons license and its options. It should address all of your concerns, including attribution.

Here is a handy license selection tool they provide.

As far as donations, you merely have to request it and provide a means, whether a Paypal address or one of several "tipping" services online.


Is the document you are translating copyright protected? Does the current copyright allow you to distribute the document?

You don't acquire any copyright interest in a document simply by translating it unless you have an agreement with the copyright holder that specifically gives you such an interest. Translation is typically done as Work for Hire, and the original copyright owner retains all copyrights to the translation. You would only be allowed to translate and distribute the translated document if the original is published under some type of full or limited "public domain" copyright. If it is not, you are opening yourself to rather significant fines for copyright violation.

  • This is an interesting point. I did not fully understand the copyright notice under the original document. I'll edit the post to include the notice. However, I am not sure if it allows me to distribute the translation. Nov 22, 2015 at 8:48

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