The Legal Battle over a Translation of Pippi Longstocking

After a skirmish over the intricacies of copyright law which lasted more than a decade, the estate of Swedish children’s book author Astrid Lindgren has succeeded in its efforts to have a German-language adaptation of Pippi Longstocking changed — subsequently, all translations and adaptations of the series have had to be adjusted slightly, a move that went into effect at the beginning of July 2021. 

A July 28 report from Novagraaf’s Koen de Winder recently broke down the copyright law behind the change and the domino effect this seemingly minor legal battle will have on future translations of the work.

“The consequences of the recent judgment extend beyond the German version of the Pippi Longstocking song. For many years, Lindgren’s estate has been waging legal battles against incorrect translations of the song, illustrating how complex copyright law can be,” writes de Winder.

Lindgren first wrote about the character Pippi Longstocking in 1945 — translations and adaptations of her work have been developed and produced the world over, into nearly 80 languages. The original Swedish television series and films featuring Pippi Longstocking include a Swedish-language song called “Here Comes Pippi Longstocking” — this iconic song has been the subject of a yearslong legal battle. In 1969, a German production company commissioned Dr F W to write a German-language version of the song, called “Hey Pippi Langstrumpf.”

Initially, Dr F W and Lindgren were credited as co-writers on the German song, however by 1987, Lindgren was removed from the credits and Dr F W was the only author credited with creating the work. In 2006, Lindgren’s estate learned of this and eventually filed a court case in Germany in 2017.

The Lindgren estate has pursued other legal battles against what they consider to be “incorrect translations” of the work, which has led to the development of an official, more uniform version, which more closely resembles the original Swedish lyrics written by Lindgren, to be used in all future productions of the work as of July 2021.

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.


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