Fan Translator Likely Finds His Work In Official Game Release And Is Totally Cool With It

from the lost-in-translation dept

Fan translations of movies and video games, while wildly popular in many different countries, have also come under recent attack. Claims of copyright infringement have been leveled against many sites and groups that put these translations together, with the theory being that it violates copyright to make works understandable to fans in countries where, often times, a translated version of the work isn't even on offer. If that sounds stupid and protectionist to you, ding ding ding, you're right.

But it's somewhat interesting to see this scenario happen in reverse, and note how different the reaction from fans are when they find their hard work in official releases, without credit. Meet Francesco, an Italian game developer with a particular affinity for a game that I've honestly never heard of.

Francesco, who also goes by Mewster online, is a 25-year-old game developer in Italy. He told Kotaku over Discord private messages that he started translating The World Ends With You when he was sixteen.

"I decided to approach it only because I really loved The World Ends With You and I wanted to keep 'living in its world,' and in the same time, do something to let others who couldn't understand its language play this game," he said. "I found out that I like to translate, and being able to change a word and see the edit 'in real time' on the final game was really satisfying."

And so he completed this labor of love almost entirely solo, with a second person working only on translating the cut scenes. This was purely about his love for the game and making a translated version for other Italians to enjoy. Pretty cool.

Then The World Ends With You got a port for the Nintendo Switch, with an Italian translation being included in the release. Francesco was thrilled and eagerly watched a series of let's-plays to see how his translation compared with the official release. Well, either he did a very, very good job, or the game publisher took silent notice of his work.

It didn't take him long to recognize what he says are undeniable similarities to his own work. Francesco said that some phrases were cleaned up and translated in a different way, but he recognized the majority of the work as identical to his own translations, right down to where the Switch port version had placed line breaks in the word balloons.

Although Francesco hasn't seen the whole game, he said that, "according to what I had seen I could say that 90% of the main story was a possible estimate," in terms of how much of his work he believes they used.

Now let's stipulate the obvious: the title and its story text are protected by copyright by the developer and rightsholder. Were Fransesco to complain, the developer/publisher would likely point that out to everyone paying attention. And they'd be right. But that doesn't remove the moral failure that is using someone's -- a fan's no less -- hard work without bothering to give them an ounce of credit. Were the shoe on the other foot, you can imagine the hell that would be raised.

But for fans? Anger isn't so much a part of the equation.

"The best I could hope for is an official acknowledgement of what happened, but I'm happy just in seeing my translation in the official game," he said. "I hope it will remain in the game after all. It means they liked 90% of my translation."

The question is why more content makers can't take their cue from fans like this and behave just as gratefully for the fans out there translating their works. These are, again, almost always labors of love, not threats to the content creator. So why are fans so much better at being awesome than far too many of the creators they support?


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Oct 2018 @ 5:33pm

    ... really?

    Assuming they did use his translation it's nice that it's being more widely used, but honestly, if they did do so the least they could have done was give him credit for his work. Sure he doesn't seem to care, but come on, credit where it's due is just basic common courtesy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 12:24am

      Re: ... really?

      Yeah, the reaction by the guy is pretty cool, but it's a dick move not to credit him for the work he did if they did indeed use it without permission. It's the least they can do for saving them a lot time and money on getting a new translation made for them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Coward Anonymous, 25 Oct 2018 @ 12:41pm

        Re: Re: ... really?

        The article doesn't tell if there is a credit for translation in the game. If there is a credit to someone for the Italian translation, it could explain why Francesco isn't mentioned;

        That the hired translator silently used Francesco's work, made a few alterations and got paid for it as his own.

        And Square-Enix's silence could mean they're ashamed hiring the wrong guy and just want it to go away.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 26 Oct 2018 @ 7:56am

          Re: Re: Re: ... really?

          There's a few reasonable explanations I can think of:

          - Square hired someone who did a new translation, but is so similar that it just looked like the same one.

          - Square didn't even bother with that, but the standard of AI translation has improved enough so that mistakes weren't obvious - or obvious enough that they were making the same mistakes as the human did.

          - Square hired someone who decided not to do the work as a whole and just grab something online and adjust it a little then bill for a full translation, thinking nobody would notice.

          - Square didn't bother with hiring the new team, they just grabbed something from online sources and thought nobody would care, or they'd have the right to sue him if he tried taking credit.

          Some of these mean that it's a simple misunderstanding, some mean that they're being slimy and hypocritical. We don't know which without all the facts, though.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 24 Oct 2018 @ 6:58pm

    New Work

    A translation is in itself a new work. Derivative, but new and can be copyrighted.

    However, this would fall under a copyright infringement to translate without permission.

    So... the game company used the translation without proper credits *and* used an infringing work, which makes *their* work infringing.

    Law is fun!

    https://copyright.uslegal.com/enumerated-categories-of-copyrightable-works/translation/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bwburke94 (profile), 24 Oct 2018 @ 9:48pm

      Re: New Work

      Assuming the official Italian translation was released worldwide, it would be subject to the local laws everywhere it was released, some of which clearly give copyright to the fan translator.

      There are past cases of fan translations being used officially, but none I can think of that did so without asking the fans, probably for this reason.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 12:25am

      Re: New Work

      "Law is fun!"

      It is. For example, did you know that the US lawyer quoted doesn't apply in Italy?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 12:25am

        Re: Re: New Work

        Law you quoted.. autocorrect be damned

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Gary (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 9:33am

          Re: Re: Re: New Work

          You are correct. I'm not familiar at all with Italian laws, but I know in some regions a translation is copyrighted even if it isn't authorized, unlike that link on US copyright.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 26 Oct 2018 @ 7:56am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: New Work

            Exactly, laws can vary wildly between regions. So, if you're taking in a forum about a Japanese game being translated for the Italian market and your legal citation is from the US, it's probably not completely, if at all valid.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vermont IP Lawyer (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 8:57am

      Re: New Work

      Gary's observation is 100% correct: copyright in the derivative work that is the translation belongs to the author of that derivative work. He is also correct that both the original translation and the new "official release" derived from the translation are both infringing. I often use this scenario as a teaching example with clients and young lawyers because the consequence of the mutual infringement is that each side theoretically has the power to enjoin the other side from distributing the infringing work. That consequence--mutually assured destruction--ought, in a rational world, to lead to a negotiated outcome, e.g., in which the first translator gets something: credit, money, etc.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2018 @ 7:07pm

    "Love" is the difference.

    Fans do what they do for love of the thing, and that love of it gets in the way of any expression of rage or anger, most of the time.

    When it comes to the other side ... the people in the companies who create a labor of love are usually involved in the actual development of the game, and don't have control over the process of copyright enforcement. The people who are in control of that?

    Yeah, they have no love for the work. They just want the money.

    So without the love, there's just the greed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Edward Fitz-Gerald, 24 Oct 2018 @ 7:52pm

    So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

    First, have you checked that this alleged person who did years of labor even exists? He may be another creation of the game owner to provide a PR hook.

    I knows these tricks full well, having painstakingly translated the immortal Persian poet Omar Khayyam "Rubaiyat and found that some English nutter had used over 90% of it, including my clumsy "enow" for rhyming "thou"!

    Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse -- and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness -- And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

    You can't refute that conclusive evidence by using anything I state. QED.

    Second, have you checked that he isn't literally nuts and claiming credit for what did exactly none of?

    I bet it's one or other scamming you always gullible clowns for hoots!

    But that doesn't remove the moral failure that is using someone's -- a fan's no less -- hard work without bothering to give them an ounce of credit.

    The obvious refutation is that stealing movies costing million of dollars without giving even a penny to the creators for it is proportionately worse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Killercool (profile), 24 Oct 2018 @ 8:07pm

      Re: So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

      ...You want proof? You mean besides the fact that his translation is, and has been, publicly available? For free? Because it is.

      Unlike your "translation," which isn't. Just a claim that your personal work is nearly identical to a published version.

      You have an unhealthy case of confirmation bias. Seriously, I think you may need professional help. Please, call 1-800-950-NAMI. They can help you find someone local to you to talk to.

      If you aren't techdirt's resident confrontational super-fan, I apologize. I would suggest that next time, you adopt a tone that is less pointlessly aggressive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 24 Oct 2018 @ 8:07pm

      Re: So says ...Translating isn't creative.

      So... If the translation is not creative than no one stole from you and STFU. :)

      What's your point?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2018 @ 8:56pm

      Re: So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

      The obvious refutation is that stealing movies costing million of dollars without giving even a penny to the creators for it is proportionately worse.

      First off, that doesn't refute the statement. It actually has no bearing on the morals/ethics of this particular issue.

      Second, the production cost of material is utterly irrelevant. It is equally as infringing to copy my kid's refrigerator art than it is to pirate a movie, despite what the industry would have you believe. If anything, I'd say copying my kid's art is worse, because it's considerably more original than most of what is coming out of Hollywood.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Killercool (profile), 24 Oct 2018 @ 9:07pm

        Re: Re: So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

        The fifth time your kid hands you the same picture, you look at them and say, "Honey, maybe you can try something different?"

        Then they go off on a rant about how their latest picture was only unsuccessful because of all the pirates- no, wait.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 12:39am

        Re: Re: So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

        It's one of his obsessions, claiming that the only work worth something is that created by major corporations for millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. He'll happily trash the work of thousands of independent filmmakers if he feels the massive profits for the new Transformers movie were lower than expectations due to piracy.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2018 @ 9:08pm

      Re: Memeber to go away.

      You are such a pathetic liar. It’s just sad.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bwburke94 (profile), 24 Oct 2018 @ 9:50pm

      Re: So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

      > The obvious refutation is that stealing movies costing million of dollars without giving even a penny to the creators for it is proportionately worse.

      Leaving aside the theft argument, it doesn't matter which is worse, because they're both blatantly illegal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2018 @ 10:24pm

      Re: So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

      If translating isn't creative, why ban translation efforts under copyright?

      Let's also add linguistics to the long list of things you neither understand nor appreciate.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 12:35am

        Re: Re: New Work

        "If translating isn't creative, why ban translation efforts under copyright?"

        Because they allow a greater audience for a work without them having to kowtow to the limited artificial market the corporations wish to exploit for more revenue.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 12:34am

      Re:

      "Translating isn't creative"

      Wow. It never ceases to amaze me how m such you'll trash the works of creative people in order to make a point. You're even trying to claim the guy doesn't exist in order to try and pretend that your fantasy works!

      It's sad really. Yesterday you were claiming that non-major label bands were giving away music only because they only needed to buy drugs, now you're saying that the entire translation writing field is not creative enough to count for copyright protection. Who else will you try to destroy in your attempt to defend your broken system?

      "I knows these tricks full well"

      You know how to con people to be paid for works you didn't create? Well, I believe that more than I'll believe this phrase was written by a sane literate person.

      "The obvious refutation is that stealing movies costing million of dollars without giving even a penny to the creators for it is proportionately worse."

      It would! Now, show me an example of someone actually stealing such a movie. No, watching it without paying for a cinema ticket is not stealing the movie.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 2:10am

      Re: So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

      "Translating isn't creative."

      Bullshit. Ted Woolsey had to translate Japanese scripts to English while making them much smaller thanks to Japanese being a more compact language and still keeping them comprehensible. If you don't think that's creative, you're a fool.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 2:39am

        Re: Re: So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

        Anyone who's ever used Google Translate or spoken more than one language will know there's more to translation than simply flipping words around. There's a massive difference between a literal translation and a translation that conveys everything that the original words were meant to convey. That takes creativity, as well as fluency in multiple languages and experiences of different cultures.

        It's yet another aspect of wider reality that escapes our resident fool, but it's telling that he's not just demanding that artists be paid - the artists have to be "creative enough" to count, presumably by standards solely approved by whichever corporation he works for.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 25 Oct 2018 @ 5:27am

      Re: So says one admitted nut-burger. Translating isn't creative.

      "He may be another creation of the game owner to provide a PR hook."
      You got them... Brah.
      https://steamcommunity.com/id/Mewster
      They started the grand conspiracy 12 years ago. Talk about dedication.

      4 years later they thought their Mewster ghost needed a YT channel:
      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGaD9bKnQGFB2Y-yVzlLfhA

      The lengths PR people will go to. Sheesh.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2018 @ 4:11am

    "Now let's stipulate the obvious: the title and its story text are protected by copyright by the developer and rightsholder. Were Fransesco to complain, the developer/publisher would likely point that out to everyone paying attention. And they'd be right."
    No, they wouldn't.

    Stupid statements like this is how copyright ended up with "transformative" and "derivative" clauses.

    Of course, back then, none of you were around to fight the stupidity of the "Sono Bono" act, but we tried.

    Now, "translations" are governed by copyright?

    Fuck that, and never defend this as a "they'd be right" ever again.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 25 Oct 2018 @ 5:38am

      Re:

      So... what you are saying is I can find all the languages that Harry Potter books have not been translated into, translate them, call it transformative and $$$?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Oct 2018 @ 7:26am

    stares at nearby 3ds

    Well I guess it's time to break out my cart of this game... I miss battling reality warping creatures using pins as a weapon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 25 Oct 2018 @ 12:17pm

    Lets see.....

    A Anime..
    Subtitled in 1-2 weeks from Release..
    Voice over in <6 months..

    Done for free.

    Compared to
    Subtitled in 1-2 months..
    Translated in 1+ years.
    (because they send it to the other nation, to 1-2 companies, AND THEY do the translations)

    PS..They Both sound exactly the SAME..most times.
    Which is very interesting.

    subtitles are interesting because you get to hear the Original voices..(and it can be hilarious)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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