Pepper&Carrot (heavy) derivation: the case of the succesful Bulgarian book publishing by Prikazka-Igra

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The publisher Prikazka-igra just ended their crowd-funding campaign for publishing their Bulgarian translation of Pepper&Carrot. It was a success with over 1700 books sold. Congratulation to them!

Now their campaign is over you can still buy a copy: it's just now a bit more expensive than when they ran the campaign (for classic inventory/batch printing reasons).

The cool side

You can read for free their Bulgarian translation: the page of the campaign contains two links to the PDFs in low quality but good enough to be read on a tablet. This is really cool to show the digital version of the final product and I understand why it convinced many visitors to support this campaign. The publisher already has published other books so I can imagine an audience already trusting their quality and they propose a full preview before buying it. That's nice.

The PDFs are published under the CC-By-Nc-Nd-2.5 license, a good surprise because my other commercial publishers (eg. Glénat or ex TokyoPop) often goes full Copyrighted with their derivation . Indicating a license with clear rules is always a benefit over Copyrighted content, even if this CC-By-Nc-Nd-2.5 doesn't allow editing, derivation and commercial usage. But at least, it allows me to re-host the PDF on my 'print' directory. This is useful for archiving or sharing non-commercially copies.

The books received a lot editing: each comic pages received a background texture instead of the white separator of the panel and sketches were inserted, giving to this publishing a unique look. The publisher told me it is promised to be print on high quality paper and hardcover. The publisher also promised to share a part of the profit of the campaign in 2023.

Attribution, license and nice presentation.

The "meh" side

2022-10-11 Update: Each topics under I disliked or was confused about were carefully answered by the publisher and the community in the comments. It gives context and depth to the decision and I feel better now about the changes knowing that. To avoid the reader to jump back and forth between the blog-post and the comment section, I took the liberty to plug the answer of Nikola Raykov, the publisher, directly in-between the points of my original article.

I found a panel removed: the Kiss of Shichimi and Torreya and a dialog changed (Torreya is now a 'friend' of Shichimi, not her girlfriend). You'll find on the Pepper&Carrot website the original episode un-edited if you want to compare.

A panel was removed, depicting the cute Lesbian kiss of Torreya and Shichimi.

Nikola Raykov: First let me clarify that we do not have different words in Bulgarian for a "friend" and a "girlfriend", both are "приятелка". The two girls might still be intimate friends, we just don't get to see the actual kiss. The reason for this is very simple. This panel would have caused a scandal in Bulgaria, the whole comics would have been labeled LGBT propaganda (especially considering the fact that there are no male heroes in it at all). Our audience as a publisher includes very small kids. It would have been a huge problem for something that is actually a very small detail and does not have any relevance to the main story. As an author myself I completely understand David's opinion. I would have been irritated if somebody made a similar change in my works, but I just don't think the hate and the labeling of the whole comics is worth it for something that is so insignificant. If it was important for the main story or the message of the work (like in V for Vendetta for example) it would have been very different story.

I don't understand Bulgarian, but I used an app that converted my screen-shot of the PDF so I could translate the text. Something I could spot on the same page: "O, боже..." (translated by "Oh God...") that are clearly not a choice of wording I would use as a die-hard atheist.

BirdOfPrey: [...] in Eastern Europe it is completely normal to use "O, боже..." even if you are completely not religious, it's more of a set expression at this point.

Nikola Raykov: This was already explained above, so no need to go into details, a lot of atheists would use this as an expression, but if I knew this will irritated David, I would have used different wording.

They also removed episodes to pack the series into two books of 100 pages (eg. of missing episodes: Episode 1 with the potion of flight, Episode 7 with the Wish, Episode 13: the pyjama party, Ep26 Books are Great and Ep30 need a hug).

Nikola Raykov: Episodes were not removed. It was rather a selection of the other episodes that left some of the others out. We are a very small publishing house and we do only 2 projects per year. I wanted to be able to tell the whole story of Pepper and Carrot (up to this point), but anything above 2 books of 100 pages would have been an overkill trying to publish and sell it. So we picked up all the episodes that are related to the main stories and left out the single ones (such as summer special, Christmas special, etc.). I would love to publish them at some point in the future if the comics are well accepted by the audience (I would also love to include some of wiki info and David's conceptual art).

I also saw a speechless episode (episode 25: There is no shortcut) receiving a special treatment: dialogs were written for this one and pasted over.

Nikola Raykov: After all the single episodes were left out, this turned out to be the only silent one. It looked extremely strange as if in the middle of the story all characters just lost their ability to speak. My goal through the whole time was to try to create a consistent story. This is also the reason why Episode 19 was moved right after Episode 12 (don't know if David has not noticed this change or he likes it as it makes sense).

I also found issues with fonts (see picture at the end of the article), and frame around rounded panel not really well integrated.

So, as you already understood by the title of this article, this version of Pepper&Carrot is heavy derivated. Unfortunately, I can't really measure the magnitude of the changes because my process for translating is long and tedious.

Is it allowed?

Yes, these changes are totally legal because it is indicated on the first page along the mentioned Creative Commons license. I translated this part too to be sure about it, and they indicated this version of Pepper&Carrot received large editing of Panel, episodes, and speech-bubbles. This license and this indication is then totally compliant with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International rules...

So, it's not what I consider infringing to my moral as an author. I can still be proud to be quoted as the author of the ending product, and it is still (I guess; I haven't translated everything) very OK to get my name on it, but I just consider this edit "far from official Pepper&Carrot".

As I have no idea of the political/religious/comic-industry context in Bulgaria, I'll probably not try to project any bad intentions about it and focus about the effort that went into this derivation to "improve" it to the audience of this publisher.

I made the episode 25 without any speechbubble, but the version of Prikazka-igra above reintroduce a dialog written by themselves.

Matter for thought about derivations...

I'm sincerely happy Prikazka-Igra made a successful crowd-funding, especially −I'm not gonna lie− for the part where they promised to share benefits. The work to publish the next episodes of Pepper&Carrot became super complex and living in this world is more and more expensive. Any financial help can be converted into more production time, so I can develop this series as I want. So any help is warmly welcome. I wish more publisher across the globe would imitate this initiative.

It also shows me a real example of how the content can be edited before publishing. It's a real life situation of what is a derivation and it was a good opportunity to question my feeling about it. I don't agree with this removal of the cute Lesbian kiss of Torreya and Shichimi, but I allow that because it is part of giving freedom as I do with the Pepper&Carrot license.

The crowd-founding contain a very honest preview the PDFs and there will be no surprise (I guess) for the audience who bought it. That's part of the work of a publisher to adapt a work to an audience (I remember the heavy cut of scenes from the anime I watched when I was a kid on French TV, with many dialog rewritten).

If I would have wanted my story and words to not be changed: I would have selected the ND/non-derivative option on the Creative Commons license and I didn't.

I just hope this publishing will contribute to welcome a new Bulgarian audience, willing to discover the original version of Pepper&Carrot later, and maybe contribute to a faithfull and free/libre translation on the website and join the 60 other translations of Pepper&Carrot!

On a technical end-note: look at the 'big number' and how they are cropped.
it's a mix of publisher not downloading the font,
mixed with a regression of Inkscape.
It is somehow sad to see this issue of rendering...