'Lolita' copyright status
November 12, 2006 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Is Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita still under copyright?

I ask because a site calling itself The Nabokov Library has a Word version available for download. (280kb ZIP) Much of the site is in Russian, and thus not legible to me.

The forum already seems to include an angry post written by Nabokov's son, but he doesn't specifically mention the ability to download Lolita as a problem.
posted by sindark to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I thought that as far as novels go, copyright expires 80 years after the writer's death? (so in this case, no.)
posted by Phire at 3:14 PM on November 12, 2006

apologies, I had meant that 'in this case, no, the copyright hasn't expired yet' and it's not public domain.
posted by Phire at 3:16 PM on November 12, 2006

On copyright.gov it is listed as being registered with registration number RE-163-993.

Phire: it's possible for older works to not be copyright due to omissions by the copyright holders. But I don't think that is the case here.
posted by grouse at 3:19 PM on November 12, 2006

copyright expires 80 years after the writer's death

Determining where something is still under copyright gets a wee bit more complicated than that.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:44 PM on November 12, 2006

slight derail: The comment from Dmitri Nabokov makes me want to read VN's letters again. Can anyone translate ace21's response? I'm curious how he came back.
posted by gleuschk at 3:50 PM on November 12, 2006

Best answer: From loc.gov:

Title: Lolita. By Vladimir Nabokov [i.e. Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov]
Claimant: Vera Nabokov (W) & Dmitri Nabokov (C)
Effective Registration Date: 8Apr83
Original Registration Date: 15Sep55;
Original Registration Number: AI-4909.
Original Class: A

It would seem that since the copyright was renewed within the 27/28 year window, it has been extended to 95 years after the original publication date, in this case expiring in 2050.
posted by anarcation at 4:48 PM on November 12, 2006

Peter Hirtle's copyright term chart is a thorough but concise explanation of copyright terms and expirations. In this case, since the work was published prior to 1963, it would be in the public domain if copyright had not been renewed, but it appears to have been renewed as per anarcation's post above.

However, that's US copyright law. Is the site hosted in the US, in Russia, or elsewhere? Russia is not a signatory to the WIPO copyright treaty and tends to be more liberal about copyright issues (e.g. allofmp3.com).
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:00 PM on November 12, 2006

Is that site hosted in the US? If not, why would the US copyright laws pertain?
posted by smackfu at 5:03 PM on November 12, 2006

The Russian Web is chock-full of copyright violations, which is great for me as a reader of Russian but not so great for the copyright holders. I'm enjoying it while I can.

gleuschk: Here's the response, followed by my translation:

Многоуважаемый мистер Набоков,

Прочитав Ваше письмо, это странное нагромождение псевдо-фактов, я сперва подумал, что меня пытаются разыграть.

Вы утверждаете, что я получил черновик перевода выпавшего из «Лолиты» абзаца under false pretenses, т.е обманным путем. Похоже, Вас подводит память, дорогой Дмитрий Владимирович. Вот, что Вы сообщили мне 13 января 2003 года в ответ на просьбу о его присылке: «к сожалению, набросков и неокончательных вариантов никому, кроме агентов и издателей, не показываю». Однако уже 4 февраля того же года Вы обнародовали свой черновик (содержащий грубейшую рамматическую ошибку) на форуме NABOKV-L, что легко проверить по интернет-архиву:
http://listserv.ucsb.edu/archives/nabokv-l.html . Так какой же я открыл секрет, скопировав 7 июня 2003 года абзац для форума talk.ru?

Столь же абсурдно обвинение в размещении на Сети рассказа The Word (translated by D. Nabokov). Интернет-публикатором явлюсь не я, а журнал The New Yorker, на его сайте электронная версия находится в свободном доступе уже почти год. И уж, конечно, я никогда не заявлял, что Набоков имеет что-то общее с автором «Романа с кокаином».

Что касается Анатолия Ливри, которого Вы считаете разбойником с большой дороги, то я по-прежнему с симпатией отношусь к его творчеству. И не изменю своего мнения даже, если все, что Вы о нем говорите и пишете, соответствует действительности. Я не склонен переносить отношение к человеку на его произведения. Франсуа Вийон как поэт не был бы лучше, если бы вел жизнь законопослушного гражданина.

Кстати, пользоваться своим настоящим именем на talk.ru - что явиться на маскарад без маски. Не говоря уж о том, что форум этот русскоязычный, и пишут тут по-русски. Впрочем, Вам на родном английском делать это проще.

Я готов доказать свою дуэлеспособность, переведя вместе с Вами любой рассказ (или отрывок из романа) Владимира Набокова. А затем предлагаю отдать наши варианты на суд специалистов, пусть разбираются, чей перевод лучше. Правда, уверен - Вы мой вызов не примете и поступите, как Антон Петрович из «Подлеца». Ведь Ваш русский - язык иностранца, и Вы сами, слава Богу, это прекрасно понимаете.

Примите мои уверения в совершеннейшем к Вам почтении,
Александр Свирилин

Dear Mr. Nabokov,

Reading your letter—that strange piling-up of pseudo-facts, I thought at first that someone was playing a trick on me.

You claim that I received a draft of a translation of a paragraph omitted from Lolita "under false pretenses," that is, by deception. It seems your memory has let you down, dear Dmitri Vladimirovich. Here is what you told me on Jan. 13, 2003 in response to a request for it: "unfortunately, I do not show drafts and unfinished variants to anyone other than agents and publishers." But already on Feb. 4 of that year you published your draft (containing a flagrant grammatical error) on the NABOKV-L forum, which can be easily verified on the internet archive: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/archives/nabokv-l.html . So what sort of secret did I reveal, copying the paragraph on June 7, 2003 on the talk.ru forum?

Just as absurd is the accusation of distributing the story "The Word" (translated by D. Nabokov) on the Web. The internet publisher was not I but the magazine The New Yorker, on whose website it has been freely available for almost a year now. And needless to say, I never announced that Nabokov had anything in common with the author of Novel with Cocaine.

As for Anatoly Livry, whom you consider a highway robber, I continue to like his work, and I will not change my opinion even if everything you say and write about him is true. I am not inclined to carry my opinion of a man over to his works. François Villon would not be a better poet if he had led the life of a law-abiding citizen.

Incidentally, using one's real name on talk.ru is like showing up at a masquerade without a mask. Not to mention that it is a Russian language forum, and people write in Russian there. On the other hand, it's easier for you to write in your native English.

I am ready to demonstrate my duel-worthiness by translating along with you any story (or excerpt from a novel) by Vladimir Nabokov. I propose that we submit our versions to a jury of specialists to decide whose translation is better. Of course, I'm certain that you will not accept my challenge, and will behave like Anton Petrovich from "An Affair of Honor." After all, to you Russian is a foreign language, and you yourself, thank God, understand that perfectly well.

Please accept my assurance of my most complete respect for you,

Alexander Svirilin
posted by languagehat at 5:29 PM on November 12, 2006

Thanks, languagehat.
posted by gleuschk at 6:41 AM on November 13, 2006

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