Apparently, Providing Derrida's Works For Free 'Harms The Diffusion Of His Thoughts'

from the oh-really-now? dept

JJ points us to an interesting case down in Argentina, where a philosophy professor is being charged with criminal copyright infringement for being so bold as to create a series of websites with Spanish translations of the works of famous philosophers, after it proved difficult to impossible to find those works for purchase in Argentina. From the article, it certainly sounds as though Argentina has no educational exception for fair use. As troubling as the story is, the most bizarre statement comes from the copyright holder of the works of Jacques Derrida:

Horacio Potel has posted, over the course of several years, without authorisation, and free of charge, full versions of several of Jacques Derrida’s works, which is harmful to the diffusion of his (Derrida)’s thought.

Ok. I can understanding the (incorrect and misleading) argument that posting such works should be seen as infringing, but I can’t fathom an explanation that giving away the works of a philosopher online for free could possibly “be harmful to the diffusion of his thought.” It would seem that the opposite would be true.

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Comments on “Apparently, Providing Derrida's Works For Free 'Harms The Diffusion Of His Thoughts'”

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21 Comments
cram says:

Perhaps it has something to do with the translation. Since the professor’s translations aren’t authorized, they could very well “harm the diffusion of Derrida’s thoughts,” since it’s his interpretation of Derrida that’s being diffused in the name of Derrida.

My guess is that the copyright holder fears it would lead to an entire generation of philosophy students misunderstanding what Derrida stood for and what his ideas were.

Imagine I translate this blog into a language you don’t know and without your authorization, and I paint Mike Masnick as a RIAA agent secretly working with the Illuminati towards world domination. Surely you would be justified in asking me to stop.

I know of one case where an author refused to let his works be translated into English, since he was sure only he could do justice to his own creations in a different language.

Xanthir, FCD (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Imagine I translate this blog into a language you don’t know and without your authorization, and I paint Mike Masnick as a RIAA agent secretly working with the Illuminati towards world domination. Surely you would be justified in asking me to stop.

That would be awesome. I’m not sure why you haven’t started this already. Hell, do it in English.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

Being authorized has nothing to do with it. Since Derrida is dead, we are stuck with someone’s interpretation, no matter what. For accuracy, it’s better that it be a translation from a professor who cares enough to do this on his own time than a translation “authorized” by the guy who is out to make a buck.

RV (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Even the worst translation (of course,
always with good and “pure” intentions)
is far better than NOTHING.
I live in Argentina, and this kind of data (free)
in this kind of country, is extremely necesary.

By the other hand, the reader/student isn’t (and should not be) a simple recipient, unable to have a critic reading
and deep analysis. A bad translation is usually pretty detectable.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

It's True You Know

Derrida is a post-modernist philosopher. Reading any of his books in their entirety leads to acute mental constipation, which is naturally “harmful to the diffusion of his thought”—indeed, of all thought.

The only way to take in Derrida is in small bite-sized pieces, each of which can be left for several months to fully digest, and allow the recipient to recover, before having another piece inflicted on them. Being forced to read an entire book of Derrida at once is a violation of several sections of the Geneva Convention.

Égide says:

Yes, the works of a philosopher online for free dispite of copyright could really be harmful to the diffusion of his thought.

How is it possible ?

2 editors have copyright to produce books in order to diffuse authorized translations of Derrida’s works.

It is very important these editors could control any diffusion of Derrida’s texts because it is very expensive for them to publish all texts never published to-day.

This month an important work is beginning, publication of Derrida seminaries. It is a great work, the editor take a lot of financial risks to do this publication.
Really Any counterfeiting of this edition even by unothaurized translation would be a desease.
Lack of income will ruin further projects of edition of the seminaries.

have a look here :
http://www.editions-galilee.fr/f/index.php?sp=liv&livre_id=3236

Anonymous Coward says:

“Horacio Potel has posted, over the course of several years, without authorisation, and free of charge, full versions of several of Jacques Derrida’s works, which is harmful to the diffusion of his (Derrida)’s thought.”

He should have translated his Spanish to English as
“Horacio Potel has posted, over the course of several years, without authorisation, and free of charge, full versions of several of Jacques Derrida’s works, which is harmful to the DISTRIBUTION of his (Derrida)’s WORKS (meaning flow of royalties.)

Carl says:

Ultimate Irony

I thought post-modernists like Derrida subscribed to Barthes’ theory, set out in “The Death of the Author”, that the reader should be considered the author just as much as the writer.

If so, Derrida’s estate has no more business claiming royalties for his work than I do.

I used to be confident about my interpretation of the text, but now I’m not Saussure.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Ultimate Irony

Haha, good point. And it makes the rightsholders’ statement that much more ridiculous. If the reader is the ultimate authority on the interpretation of the work, how can an interpretation be “inaccurate”? By Derrida’s own philosophy, neither Derrida nor his heirs have the authority to decide whether Potel is accurate or “correct” in his interpretation.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: I Smell A Law Of The Excluded Middle Somewhere...

fishbane wrote:

… Derrida demonstrated that binary oppositions are linguistic constructs, and thus death, as a binary construct, makes no sense to discuss.

How does that follow? Is it because it either makes sense to discuss or it doesn’t? In which case—didn’t he use a binary construct to come to that conclusion?

Stephen S. Power says:

diffussion v. dissemination

It’s curious that Potel uses the word “diffusion,” which means:

a. the spreading or scattering of widely or thinly.
b. Needless profusion of words; prolixity.
c. the transmission of elements or features of one culture to another.

instead of the word “dissemination,” which was the title of Derrida’s masterwork and which means:

a. the spreading or scattering of widely or thinly.
b. The act of spreading abroad; promulgating

I would argue the latter word is more correct in Potel’s context, given the secondary aspect of the word, whereas the secondary and tertiary aspects of “diffusion” critique his verbosity, then give the act of bringing Derrida to South America an imperial flavor that’s both appropriate and contrary to Derrida’s philosophy.

Of course, he probably didn’t use “dissemination” because the thesis of that work is, to quote the flap copy, “that language is haunted by dispersal, absence, loss, the risk of unmeaning, a risk which is starkly embodied in all writing. The distinction between philosophy and literature therefore becomes of secondary importance. Philosophy vainly attempts to control the irrecoverable dissemination of its own meaning, it strives—against the grain of language—to offer a sober revelation of truth.” It seems the professor actualized this risk and that didn’t please his estate, who are now vainly attempting to control the irrecoverable dissemination of their nest egg.

For this I got an M.A. in English.

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