Can I translate and publish a book written by someone who died?

Can I translate and publish a book written by someone who died?

I have a book in French published in Canada, copyright 1997. The author died in 1998 in Louisiana. I know that 2 of his 4 siblings are deceased and have not been successful in finding any info on the other 2. I cannot find anything on the publisher. So, I assume the publisher has ceased operations. What do you advise if I would like to publish a translation?



For some reason, many people assume that a deceased author’s work is up for grabs once they die, even if their heirs can’t be located, and if the publisher has gone out of business. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Would you walk into a deceased person’s home, and start taking things? No, you would not. You would know that the person’s assets belong to his or her heir(s).

His heirs own the rights to his book. You can’t republish it without permission, even if you translate it.

Please see:
Never, Ever Assume You Can Use a Deceased Person’s Work

Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of, the President and CEO of and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.

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One Response to "Can I translate and publish a book written by someone who died?"

  1. Linda G  February 18, 2023 at 12:01 pm

    I can’t believe someone would embarrass themself by asking such a question. Of course you can’t just use someone else’s work. Copyright is good for a hundred years and writers should know that.