It's not often you hear of a copyright claim concerning a text that was supposedly written more than 2,500 years ago. The Hollywood Reporter has the news that Wayne Dyer, a "self-help" guru, has been sued for copyright infringement
for using text from "Tao Te Ching: A New English Version," by Stephen Mitchell, in his own book. But, of course, if the Tao Te Ching is from two plus millennia ago, what's the copyright claim? Well, it turns out that Mitchell is now claiming that his new English version is very new indeed. So new that it's not actually a translation at all, but more or less his own version of what he thought the Tao Te Ching really meant:
As a result, "rather than provide a literal translation, the book embodies language that conveys Mitchell's version of Lao-tzu's meaning and the spirit of his teaching," the complaint says. "Accordingly, Mitchell's book is a highly original work."
If true, there certainly could be a new copyright on the work, though it does seem a bit odd to rewrite it, and then still call it the Tao Te Ching. Basically, it looks like Mitchell wants the best of both worlds. To be able to pretend his version is the ancient version when it works for marketing purposes, but then to consider a brand new work when it comes to copyright.