Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Galaktika Magazine: Theft on a Massive Scale

On March 23, 2016, Bence Pintér published an article at Mandiner Magazine regarding numerous stories published by Galaktika Magazine in 2015 - most of them translated and reprinted without the knowledge or consent of the original authors.

The summary of the article in English stated: "We started our investigation about Galaktika magazine upon coming across a warning about them on Doug Smith's website. Having reviewed each volume of last year's Galaktika, we found that the majority of the foreign stories were pirated from online portals such as Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed,, or Popular Science; and from certain anthologies (Years Best SF 14, eds. David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, Eos, 2014. and There Won't Be War, eds. Harry Harrison and Bruce McAllister, Tor, 1991.). We contacted the authors, the editors, and the websites, and have learned that Galaktika did not purchase the rights for most of these stories. The only exception we know of is Jason Sanford's short story. Also, there are reports from 2006 and 2012 about Galaktika publishing short stories without permission." [The full article is now available in English here.]

I spoke with Mr. Pintér via email on March 30, 2016, and he said that Jason Sanford's short story ("The Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain, Interzone 2008) had been submitted for translation and he was aware of its publication. Mr. Sanford confirmed that with me as well, but said his records did not indicate whether he had received payment for his story, and was not certain if he had received any sort of contributor copy either.

Mr. Pintér also said that following the publication of his article, he had confirmed that Kim Stanley Robinson's story (The Lucky Strike, Universe 14, ed. Terry Carr, Doubleday, 1984) had also be printed with permission. According to the article there were a few authors still unaccounted for (Tom Hanks, for example), but, Mr. Stanford and Mr. Robinson aside, the vast majority of the short stories were published without any permission from or compensation to the authors. [Edited to correct "Ms. Robinson" to Mr. Robinson.]

I asked Mr. Pintér if the pieces by Hungarian authors were also being published without their knowledge and he said "I just know about translations stolen. As I mention in the article, a translation of a Robert Bloch story was stolen from the Hungarian translator. But it is known that Galaktika pays the domestic authors long after the publication, if it pays at all." (We could speculate on whether Galaktika is targeting overseas authors due to lack of immediate legal remedy, but that would be speculation. I think it's fair to say that they are operating in such a way they prefer not to make a monetary investment in the content of their magazine, despite selling it for 1190 HUF (or approximately 4 Euros/US Dollars) per issue.)

Note that Doug Smith's website originally stated that Galaktika's terms for payment where "Pays $50-100US generally for short stories (plus contrib copy)." [It now contains a warning " DO NOT SUBMIT HERE RIGHT NOW! – Mar 2016: Once again, I've received multiple reports of stories being translated and printed without the author's permission. This has been going on since 2012. At that time, the editor said that he was working with publisher to identify and arrange for missing payments. If you've submitted here and never heard back, check their website. If you find your story was published, contact editor."

It was that warning that Bence Pintér stumbled across while researching Galaktika for an unrelated article he intended to write about the magazine, and prompted the investigation into the contents of every issue released in 2015. 

I first became aware of the unfolding story when an author acquaintance on Twitter began urging other authors to check and see if their work had also been stolen and pointed them to the thread at the Absolute Write Water Cooler which in turn linked to a FaceBook post by Sean Wallace (shared by Ellen Datlow) which contained the link to Bence Pintér's article at Mandiner. There was also a link to the Galaktika website, which I followed and began looking through the bibliography. (Possibly the only word I am able to recognize in Hungarian.) 

As I looked through the TOC for monthly magazines, I immediately began to recognize names and I reached out to a couple that I followed on Twitter. 

Aliette DeBodard was the first to respond. I asked her about the translation and publication of her short story "Shipbirth" (Asimov's Feb 2011) that had appeared in the June 2012 issue of Galaktika. She confirmed that it had been published without her consent and she had contacted them when she became aware. That inquiry was apparently ignored - the editor made no attempt to offer compensation for having printed her story, and, from what she can see reviewing the email at the time, did not bother to respond at all.

Elizabeth Bear (@matociquala on Twitter) also responded and said she first became aware of the publication of "Boojum" (with Sarah Monette - Fast Ships, Black Sails, ed. Ann VanderMeer & Jeff VanderMeer, Night Shade Books, 2008) in the Aug 2015 issue of Galaktika was when Bence Pintér contacted her while researching his article. Nor was she aware, until I asked her about it in a follow-up email, of the publication of "Tideline" (Asimov's Jun 2007) in the October 2008 issue of Galaktika.

After posting a link to my first (very brief post) yesterday, I was contacted by Malcolm Cross via Twitter (@foozzzball) who had also found out his story (Pavlov's House, Strange Horizons Apr 21 2014) had been translated and published without his knowledge in the April 2015 issue of Galaktika when he was notified by the staff at Strange Horizons. He says: "At first I was contacted by one of the Strange Horizons staff (who are all amazing and supportive), and... I thought it must have been some kind of one off or mistake. I'd been contacted by Fantastyka - a fantastic sounding magazine from Poland - for reprint and translation rights quite a long time ago, which I was paid for. It wasn't a huge sum of money or anything, but they respected my rights. At first I thought Galaktika must have been related to Fantastyka somehow, maybe sold translation rights on, but, no. Nothing like that had happened. [...] A couple of days after the initial contact from Strange Horizons I discovered that, no, this was not some kind of one-off mistake, it's...apparently industrial level plagiarism, which is far from flattering."

He also said he was concerned about making waves because "science fiction matters." Given the historical role Galaktika has had in Hungary in the past he is concerned about the harm that might come to the magazine by talking about the plagiarism. He says this is complicated by the wider history of science fiction in Eastern Europe. "There's been difficulty in interacting with the wider world, both in the communist era and after it, a sense of being 'othered' from the English speaking fandom, a tricky situation where far more material is translated from English into Hungarian/Magyar, Czech, Polish, than gets translated back. Which is sad -- we got 'Rossum's Universal Robots' from Karel Capek, we got 'Solaris' from Stanislaw Lem... but all that's decades ago. These days eastern Europe's virtually cut off from us, we don't hear their voices, but they hear ours through translation." 

Mr. Cross expressed concern that criticism of the plagiarism would remove an outlet for the Hungarian SF fandom which should be "fostering and encouraging each other to produce the best they can, to have a dialogue, to discuss the issues that matters to them through their stories, and make it something so enticing that we have people over here so eager to hear their words that we stop waiting for translations and start learning how to speak Hungarian. "

I appreciate Mr. Cross' concern, but given Bence Pintér's assertion that Hungarian contributors are not being reasonably compensated for their work either, I'm afraid Galaktika may be unable to provide any legitimate outlet for the Hungarian SF authors if it continues as it has. 

Elizabeth Bear also said "I think this is a pretty ethically unsupportable action on their part, and I'm deeply disappointed in the people involved." 

And this is a part of the problem. No one wants to see a magazine disappear, especially in a country with only a couple Hungarian language SF/F markets, but if that publisher is depending on either stealing or otherwise acquiring work for free, I think they are doing more damage than good. Especially now that it's become apparent that this is not an occasional problem, but habitual theft of intellectual property. 

I asked Mr. Pintér if the publisher had responded to the allegations of theft and he said they had declined to comment on the matter during a separate interview. "After that they sent an email, which is in the article. The boss said that "the area of copyrights is a complicated stuff". Since then no word from them."


Edward Morris said...

Um... MR. Kim Stanley Robinson. Fact check, dude. Fact Check.

A.G. Carpenter said...

Corrected. Sorry about that.

Gregory said...

Not . MR. Kim Stanley Robinson. DR. Kim Stanley Robinson.

Chris Noto said...

Actually, "KSR", as he is known in fannish shorthand, usually goes by "Stan."

E Brown said...

Galaktika were stealing stories way back in 2004, when they pirated my tale "The Time-Lapsed Man". I managed to obtain a copy of the magazine from a Hungarian fan, but was never paid for the story.

A.G. Carpenter said...

Eric: Could you contact me via email? (annagrace dot carpenter at gmail dot com)