She was called the most famous writer of all time. Her writings were translated into more than 100 languages. Although she passed away more than 30 years ago, many readers who love to read mystery novels wish she lived longer. I certainly do.
In many Thai schools, some of her novels are suggested books for secondary school students. But in the Thai publishing world there are mysteries and then there are mysteries!
There are more than twenty translators and many publishers of Agatha Christie's books in Thailand. It hasn't been a free ride.. The representative of her British publisher (and copyright holder) sued the Nong Mai publisher from Sangsan Vichakarn publishing company in the Thai courts. This case continued for moire than 9 long years.
The trial regarding the translation and printing copyrights issue is interesting. The plaintiff is a big publisher and the defendant is a small business. In 1996, the representative from Ruesampan publisher and the copyrights holder from Agatha Christie's company ordered an attorney to sue the Nong Mai publisher for violations of international copyright laws by selling and reprinting the translated novel of Agatha Christie to the public. Ruesampan publisher which was solely authorized to print the novels of Agatha Christie called for 35 million Baht from the defendant.
The defendants believed that they had no guilt and would fight until the end of case. Plaintiff and defendant had many cases involved. An attorney sent an order for the defendant to suspend the distribution of the books and then seized 4,727 books from 28 titles.
In October 2005, the court acquitted the case and declared that the defendant did not violate the copyrights. The translators did have rights in the translation and distribution without asking for permission from the plaintiff and the facts stated that the defendant did not know that the translations violated the copyrights. The defendant did not have any intention to violate the law. How they arrived at this conclusion is a mystery.
The 8 cases took almost 10 years to finish based on the copyrights act of 1994. Both the copyrights act of 1994 and a royal decree set the conditions for copyright protection between Thailand and other countries. It was stated in the royal decree that with any literature or performance, if the copyright owner does not get the translation done and advertised within 10 years from the last day of the year that the advertising took place for the first time, then the copyrights for reproduction, adaptation and advertising in Thailand expire. That's another mystery and a convenient one for some people.
The first translation of Agatha Christie's books by the Nong Mai publisher took place before the implementation of the copyrights act of1994. Nong Mai made good use of a temporary section in the Copyrights act 1994. It cited copyrighted materials according to the literature and arts protection acts of 1931 and 1978. This was a crucial variable that prevented the copyrights owners from winning the trial because the plaintiff did not publish and advertise the books of Agatha Christie for 30 years. The new copyrights act 1994 motivated all the publishers not to keep the copyrights from international companies without the translation, advertising and distribution to the public for too long. Otherwise, the translator would not be able to translate and publish the books to the Thai public because then it would be a violation of the original copyrights. This was not beneficial for Thai readers because they preferred to read their favorite books in Thai.
It was all a case study for publishers and the Thai public that revealed the murky mysteries of copyright conflicts that exist in Thailand, and in many other countries for that matter. Ah, where is Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot when we need them? Right over there on a street in Bangkok!
Here's a short bio in case you haven't had the joy and pleasure of meeting her.
Agatha Christie (15 September 1890 -12 January 1976)
She was born Agatha Miller in Torquay, England on September 15, 1890, the daughter of Frederick Alvah Miller and Clarissa Miller. Her father died when she was a child. Agatha was educated at home. her mother encouraged her to write from a very early age. At sixteen she was sent to school in Paris where she studied singing and piano. In 1914 she married Colonel Archibald Christie, an aviator in the Royal Flying Corps. The couple had one daughter, Rosalind, before their divorce in 1928. Archie Christie announced that he had fallen in love with a younger woman, Nancy Neele. That same year, Christie's beloved mother died. The story of Christie's real life mystery in 1926, when she disappeared for a time and lived in a Harrowgate hotel under the name 'Mrs. Neele,' was the basis for the film Agatha.
Christie worked as a nurse during WWI, which helped her learn about prescriptions and poisons -- something which figured strongly in her writing career. After the war, to keep herself occupied during the day, she turned to writing novels and was a hit from her very first detective story. The Mysterious Affair at Styles introduced Hercule Poirot, surely one of the most famous fictional creations of all time. The eccentric Belgian detective triumphed over devious criminals in 33 novels and dozens of short stories, the last of which was Curtain (1975). Christie's other world-famous sleuth, the shrewdly inquisitive, elderly spinster Miss Jane Marple, was a typical English character. But while Poirot used logic and rational methods, Marple relied on her feminine sensitivity and empathy to solve crimes. Marple was featured in 12 novels, the first being Murder At The Vicarage (1930) and the last Sleeping Murder (1977). Both Poirot and Marple have been adapted many times for film and television.
Agatha Christie also wrote six romantic novels under the pseudonym Mary Westmacott. She wrote nonfiction as well -- four books including an autobiography and an entertaining account of the many archeological expeditions she shared with her second husband, Sir Max Mallowan. In 1967 Christie became president of the British Detection Club, and in 1971 she achieved her country's highest honor when she received the Order of Dame Commander of the British Empire.
Agatha Christie died on January 12, 1976. With over one hundred literary works and 103 foreign language translations, Christie was by the time of her death the best-selling English novelist of all time.