I’ve been discussing translations of popular science books into Arabic. It appears that, at least for Carl Sagan’s books, there’s been more activity than even the organization which owns the rights to these books knows. Here’s edited correspondence in which I discuss my realization that many of his books have been translated into Arabic and are distributed freely as Adobe files on the Internet.

Are unauthorized translation and distribution a good thing?


After you told me that the translation listed in WorldCat was unauthorized, I did a simple search in Google on Carl Sagan’s name in Arabic. There’s no consonant “g” in Arabic. Egyptians in Cairo and Lower Egypt use the “j” letter because they pronounce it like a “g”, and other Arabs use the “gh” letter. His name is spelled in at least two different ways, so hence 2 searches:

كارل ساغان – Google Search http://bit.ly/YWdf6W
كارل ساجان – Google Search http://bit.ly/11Pxp3i
A Kuwaiti institution has translated and published Cosmos and Pale Blue Dot.An Egyptian publisher has translated Dragons of Eden and Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death, and a different one translated Demon-Haunted World.All five have been scanned and are available for download on the Internet, free of charge. The links I’ve provided above allow you to download the books. For Pale Blue Dot, I contacted the person who manages the 4shared.com account, and he/she provided me the password to open the archive file.It’s likely that other books have been similarly translated and published without authorization, but I did not go past the 2nd page of Google results.Obviously, there’s no need for a new translation into Arabic of these books if their translations are satisfactory.I assume the usurpation of copyright is a serious problem in the production of the unauthorized translations and the electronic distribution of all the translations, authorized or not.

There are some new media alternatives which may assist publishers to benefit financially from translations into Arabic.

In addition, I hope that an audio production may reach wider audiences.

Here’s an interesting article which has a passage about the acquisition of publishing / translation rights for Arabic-language publishers.

Finally, I was somewhat reluctant to share this with you because I simply want Dr. Sagan’s work to spread to more audiences. I hope that you will be able to come to an agreement with somebody to make that happen. If it’s not too much trouble, please keep me updated.

A search for Carl Sagan (Saghan) in Arabic on Twitter showed a lot of discussion of his books.

On 2/4/2013 2:06 PM, [representative of organization with rights to Dr. Sagan’s works] wrote:

Dear Ayman,
Thank you very much for your email.
Our legal department is looking into the link you sent to us as at first glance it appears to be an illegal translation and violation of our copyright.  I have been informed that in the
very least this book may have been legally published but certainly their license to print has been expired well over 15 years.
We have granted copyright licenses for Demon-Haunted World and Dragons of Eden in 2006 and 2003 respectively to be translated, published, and sold strictly in Egypt but not worldwide.  All legal translations are to be made from Dr. Sagan’s original published book in English language to be sure that Dr. Sagan’s work is not jeopardized during the
I hope this is helpful information.
On Jan 30, 2013, at 9:48 AM, Ayman Fadel wrote:
Dear [representatives of organization with rights to Carl Sagan’s books],
I appreciate your response.I don’t work directly with a publisher, and, I’m not a professional translator. I’m happy that some of Dr. Sagan’s works have been translated into Arabic.
When I searched in WorldCat, I only found this book: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/38465133
published by Maʻhad al-Inmāʼ al-ʻArabī in Beirut in 1996. According to the entry, it’s a translation from French of Dragons of Eden.Would you send me a list of his titles which have been translated into Arabic and their publishers? Maybe I can convince one of those publishers to make a proposal to you for this project.

On 1/30/2013 9:32 AM, [representative] wrote:

Dear Ayman,

Thank you for your email.  I have spoken to our legal department and while we find your offer to translate a very good idea, we can only work with publishers as there are several legal issues involved.  Do you work directly with a publisher?  As we have had other titles of Dr. Sagan’s translated previously into Arabic.
On Jan 24, 2013, at 4:03 PM, Ayman Fadel wrote:
Dear [representative],
Thanks for your response.My interest is in having a quality translation of Pale Blue Dot into Arabic.Is there already somebody doing this?If not, as copyright owner, what would your organization be looking for in order to authorize a translation into Arabic and subsequent publication?
On 1/24/2013 3:48 PM, [representative] wrote:

Dear Ayman Fadel,

Your email has been forward to me because we own all of the copyrights for Pale Blue
Dot  by Dr. Carl Sagan.   How may we be of assistance to you?