Plagiarism of translations is still one of the problems haunting the Turkish book market. It is particularly widespread among publications of the classics, popular novels of nineteenth century French and Russian authors such as War and Peace by Tolstoy, Dead Souls by Gogol or Flaubert’s Madame Bovary . Nearly all classic novels are published by more than one publishing house – for instance there are at least twelve editions of War and Peace available. However, the various editions of one title are often plagiarised versions of one and the same translation.
In 2007, soon after ÇEVBİR (http://www NULL.cevbir NULL.org) (Literary Translators’ Society Turkey) was established, Nesrin Altınova, who translated some thirty classics, reported that several of her translations were plagiarised by a number of publishing houses. One of them was Sefiller, the translation of Victor Hugo’s famous novel Les Misérables.
Subsequently, this title was included in a large scale study on plagiarism in Turkish translations carried out by a joint commission of ÇEVBİR and YAYBİR, the Turkish publishers’ association. In the case of Sefiller five editions by different publishing houses were traced – all of them based on Nesrin Altınova’s translation and none of them mentioning her name.
In 2008, ÇEVBİR started a court case against Engin, one of the publishing houses that plagiarised Nesrin Altınova’s Sefiller translation. The expertises requested by the court for every single edition involved considerable financial costs on behalf of ÇEVBİR, which is a serious obstacle to open more court cases. The translation of Sefiller thus functioned as a test case for the many plagiarised works of Turkish translators available on the Turkish book market.
In the summer of 2011, after a long juridical process, the Turkish court decided in favour of Nesrin Altınova. A last attempt to appeal resulted in a settlement, sentencing publishing house Engin to a penalty of 29,050 Turkish Lira (some 12,000 euro). The Sefiller case constitutes an important precedent in the many cases of plagiarised translations that are yet to be brought to court.