A Profound Spiritual Task


A.A. Copyrights and Literature Licensing: ‘A Profound Spiritual Task’

Excerpts from Winter Issue of Box 459

With A.A. activity in approximately 170 countries around the world, the Big Book and other A.A. literature has been translated into a multitude of languages — from Afrikaans to Vietnamese, with materials as varied as the Big Book in Urdu, Living Sober in Bulgarian and “A Newcomer Asks” in Swahili. As the guardian of this diverse and lifesaving collection of A.A. literature, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., the publishing arm of A.A.’s General Service Board, holds numerous copyrights and licenses in trust for A.A. as a whole, protecting the integrity of the writings and preserving the continuity of A.A.’s message of recovery and hope.


It is a shared undertaking, and the G.S.O. staff member on the International assignment, along with the archives director, have been utterly invaluable, assisting with research and history on specific countries’ translations, and helping to move projects forward. This work involves real collaboration, often across departments, with many employees contributing helpful assistance in the daily process of publishing and distributing A.A. material.


A.A.W.S. has a deep moral and legal responsibility to insure the integrity of all A.A. General Service Conference-approved literature no matter who does the translation and no matter where in the world the material is printed or distributed. Generally, A.A.W.S. licenses for the translation, printing and distribution of A.A. literature to General Service Offices in other countries, and all translations submitted to A.A.W.S. are sent to independent translation review services for reporting on their accuracy and quality.

When G.S.O. receives a request from someone wishing to translate A.A. literature on his/her own initiative, the Publishing Department will determine if there is an existing, authorized translation in the U.S. or overseas. If such a translation exists, the request will be denied. If a translation does not exist, the requesting party will be asked to translate some representative portions of the work, like Chapter 5 of the Big Book for example, so that the translation may be reviewed by a professional translation service for its consistency with the original text.


Particularly noteworthy and exciting of projects currently underway at G.S.O., is the first-ever audio/video translation of the Big Book into the Navajo spoken-language.


Some recent success stories include: the new Arabic translation of the Big Book; the Czech language translation of Daily Reflections; a new German translation of the pamphlets “Is A.A. for Me?” and “A.A. at a Glance”; and just printed is a new Hungarian version of “A.A. for the Older Alcoholic.” A new translation of the Twi language Big Book from Ghana is nearing its completion; and the Rarotongan translation of the Big Book (Cook Islands) is in its final round of editing and formatting, as well.

The process of producing material in multiple languages is not always smooth. Efforts on the Haitian/Creole language have admittedly experienced many fits and starts in recent years; actively recouping and researching various threads of communication and contacts in that region to evaluate where the projects stand and to discern the next steps for making further progress.


Regardless of the inevitable ups and downs encountered, every piece of literature written and produced by A.A. is owned and controlled by the Fellowship itself. Only in this way can we preserve the integrity of our message and ensure that it is passed on ungarbled to future generations of suffering alcoholics. A profound spiritual task, indeed.


Link to BOX459 for the article in its entirety.


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