July 08, 2003
Was ist das Deutsches wort für "Quidditch"?

Interesting story over on Slashdot about how Harry Potter fans in Germany, frustrated that a German version of the new book “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” won’t be out until November 5, have taken matters into their own hands: they’re using a Web site to coordinate a distributed translation, with fans each taking a block of five pages each and then a group of editors doing a final pass over the completed work to improve consistency (and all translators sharing a central dictionary giving translations of standard Potterisms so they don’t all have to invent their own term for Bertie Botts’ Every Flavor Beans).

At least in the U.S., this would be a violation of Rowling’s copyright (not sure how German copyright law handles it) — a translation is a derivative work, at least given my limited understanding of the law — but it’ll be interesting to see how Rowling and her publishers handle it; after all, it’s a massive compliment to Rowling (not to mention free publicity for the book, as if it needed any) that her fans are so fanatical about her work they’d undertake such a huge task just to get access to it, and it’d be quite a tricky matter publicity-wise to drag her most ardent fans into court. Not to mention that it probably in the end won’t hurt sales of the “official” translation, either, since all those fans will snap it up in November just to see how the canonical version differs from the fan translation.

Oh, and if you were wondering, the German word for Quidditch is apparently… “QuitWitch” :-)

Posted by Jason Lefkowitz at July 08, 2003
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