I am only starting to learn the French, but I already need to read 1971 French mathematical book (https://mathscinet.ams.org/mathscinet-getitem?mr=0344253), others wanted to read it too.

I am considering the idea about my pet project in which I could translate parts of this book in the English language and put them into some blog page (I can make my personal blog page for this). But I have many concerns. Is it ethical to do this, because it will not be the professional translation (this is math monograph and that is why it requires a bit less translational art than other domain, so, it can be less of concern)? What about copyrights? And can comeone provide me with Latex source (author is deceased, I am not sure that Springer keeps Latex source for 50 years old books) in which I can update the French text and keep the formulas and (category theoretic) diagrams intact.

I am aware that I have to open separate questions (in their respective Stackexchange sites) about copyrights, about Latex source and maybe about French terms. That is OK and I may do this.

But this my question is about the idea itself - is such pet project acceptable, can it succeed, are the publishers and authors open to such ideas? I.e. this question is about the problem - whether to start such pet project at all or I just need to learn French and to do private translation and disregard any benefit to the community which can arise from such public translation project.

This book is only one example. I have several other (more recent) books that are very interesting but in French and whose English availability could be great.

  • 7
    LaTeX was relesed in 1984, so the LaTeX source must be younger than 50 years :)
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 10:06
  • 4
    @EarlGrey And TeX was released in 1978.
    – Anyon
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 15:56
  • 2
    @TomR Counter-example: Bourbaki
    – avid
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 16:27
  • 3
    @TomR Actually I can not remember any French math book that is translated into English Actually, there are many: for a few examples, the books by R. Godement, this other book by H. Brezis, ... Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 21:02
  • 3
    or this other book by M. Berger. Just to name a few, but you can easily find other examples. Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 21:03

4 Answers 4


I did something similar with an old French language paper I wanted to make available to a broader audience so I translated to English. The translation is available on my web page. I have not gotten in any trouble for doing this, and from an ethical point of view I am at peace with my decision. I am motivated by the desire to make the world a slightly better place.

I can’t advise you what to do, but this is what I did, for what it’s worth.

P.S. LaTeX did not exist in 1971, so be prepared to typeset your translation from scratch.

  • 1
    Instead of "be prepared to typeset your translation from scratch", I would say, "be prepared to use Mathpix" ;-) I also suggest trying out deepl, its translations are really good. Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 1:46

You might start by asking the likely copyright holder, the publisher, if they’d be interested in an English translation of this work. They’re probably not, but they might agree with you that there is a market for it, and ask for a proposal. If they say no, you might ask if you can do one as a project and promise not to distribute your final result.

Everyone else is right. This was likely typeset by hand, and you’ll have to redo the mathematical typesetting in LaTeX yourself.

If you really want English speakers to have access to a free copy, I doubt you’ll get it for free from the publisher. But I do encourage you to ask.


A book from 1971 might still be under copyright. One of the normally retained rights is that of translation. You need to settle this before you publish anything, including on a personal web site (blog).

If Springer holds the unexpired copyright then you need to contact them. They might well give you permission to translate it and, perhaps, have Springer do the re-publication.

Note that a lot of copyright law changed after the publication date of this work. Some of those changes extended the life of copyright.

LaTex is unlikely in any case.

And, if the copyright has expired you can do what you like.

  • A book from 1971 is still under copyright, unless released by the author, unless you live in Canada or one of the other nations that copyright works for life of the author plus 50 years and the author dropped dead right after publishing it. India is life+60 and most of the developed world is life + 70, with the US being 95 years from publication, so all of those have a certainty of it being in copyright.
    – prosfilaes
    Commented Jun 22, 2022 at 14:32

I see no ethical issue with this, provided you are clear about the roles of yourself and the original author and publisher (which you would surely do anyway). I fail to see what difference it makes whether it is “professional” (assuming there is such a thing as a “professional” translation to begin with).

There is a copyright issue, though, which you should resolve before doing anything else. This is well-covered by other answers.

If you are in a position to do so, consider paraphrasing the book and releasing your work under a Free Culture License, which avoids copyright issues for both you and those who wish to further build on your work. In particular, you will not have restrictions on what you can do with your own work, as you probably would if you made an agreement with the original publisher.

  • Paraphrasing is no different than translating, legally speaking. Both will result in a derivative work.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 16:37
  • @DanRomik I haven’t got around to preparing a full response, but as this answer is starting to gather downvotes, here is a quick response. What you said is true for a so-called “close paraphrase”, where ideas are expressed in a similar order and a similar manner to the original book. But a “close paraphrase” is not a proper paraphrase to begin with (at least, that is what I remember my school saying, when they were teaching research skills), and it is not my intended meaning of “paraphrase”. This should be clear from the fact that I refer to “paraphrasing” as distinct from mere “translation”. Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 8:56
  • I have no idea what “close paraphrase” and “proper paraphrase” are. I stand by what I said. Some schools teach students that paraphrasing is okay in the context of avoiding plagiarism in academic work if the paraphrased text is sufficiently modified from the original. Maybe that’s what you’re referring to, I’m not sure. But this has nothing to do with the legal issue of copyright.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 16:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .