There are a few old Mark Twain books on wikisource available in both english and spanish that I would like to combine to create bilingual editions for sale via CreateSpace or Lulu.

CreateSpace, at least, always requires the name of the translator and year of translation, presumably to make sure that not just the original, but also the translation occurred long enough in the past to be in the public domain.

For these works, though, I have not been able to ascertain who the translator was or when they performed the translation. I have actually made a couple of changes to the translation myself (changed "MountBlanc" to "Mount Blanc" and a couple of things of that ilk).

So my question is: Is the fact that the translation is available in wikisource in and of itself evidence that the work is in the public domain?

2 Answers 2


Practically speaking, the answer is that wikisource's texts have terms similar (and possibly identical) to the public domain, although it is not always identical to public domain.

Sourcetext on wikisource is creative commons attribution share alike (BY-SA), https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.es ) which means you can use any of it for commercial use. BY-SA is definitely one of the most lenient licenses -- aside from the public domain (where there is no obligation to give attribution).

For example, I publish a lot of my fiction under BY-SA, so people can make commercial use of my fiction (I don't care). The only condition is that it be labeled properly and that you identify the source of the text. If you take BY-SA content which is NOT public domain, then you are obligated to make clear that your product is also BY-SA. This can raise an issue if you are selling something which consists of BY-SA stuff and maybe copyrighted images.

I have solved this incompatible license issue by mentioning in the credits that the text is BY-SA but the images are copyrighted (or some stricter version of the CC license).

From an editorial standpoint, it makes sense to disclose that you have made some small changes (or big ones, if that is the case).

Glancing quickly over the material so far, it looks like a LOT of the works there are not just BY-SA but are actual public domain. Generally the designation is on the bottom of a wiki page. Although you shouldn't trust the copyright labeling all the time (occasionally someone mislabels something), but stuff from Wikipedia is usually accurately-labeled -- they police themselves well.

  • no, terms for works in Wikisource are not "similar (and possibly identical) to the public domain". This would be CC-0 license. You may use them freely, but you must write who "the author" is (actually, the URL for the work in Wikisource is enough)
    – mau
    Jul 14, 2016 at 17:18
  • Now available: createspace.com/6417526 Huck Finn is next. Jul 24, 2016 at 0:12

The translations present in Wikisource are under a CC-BY-SA license, which means that you may freely use them in a book you make, provided you let people do the same with your derivative work. (The translations themselves were possible because the works of Mark Twain are in the public domain)

In practice, you should put in the colophon something like "Text by Mark Twain (18xx); translation from Wikisource, 20xx-20yy (https://es.wikisource.org/wiki/Xxxxxx). If you open the Chronology tab in the Wikisource page, you may find when the first and last edits were made.


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