Q: What should I do when I cannot get in touch with the copyright holder to translate their material?
I want to create a Japanese version of an English scale that was published in an international journal in 2010. I have sent several emails to the author of the original paper, both before translation and at the time of back translation (after translation). However, I have not received any response. I have also sent an email to the co-author, but again, have not received any reply. So, I contacted the publisher of the paper, and was advised that the first author obtains [retains] the copyright of the scale. What can I do in this situation?
It is great that you are seeking to do the right (ethical) thing, and we can understand your predicament or dilemma. What we would suggest in this situation is to check with both the editor of the journal in which you seek to publish (in case you have identified one) and again with the editor of the paper’s journal.
With your target journal(s), you could discuss this through a presubmission inquiry. With the paper’s journal, as they have already told you that the first author retains the copyright, you could check with them if they have the present contact details of the first author. In case they don't and in case you haven’t tried already, you could try searching for the details (contact, affiliation, and so on) of the first author and the co-author on the internet, specifically in researcher databases and forums such as Google Scholar and ResearchGate. Finally, you may also refer to this very similar query by another researcher for more inputs: Do I need to take permission to use a scale that was published in a paper?
Hope that helps. And hope that you are able to find a resolution soon.