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What to do: Translation of a text that has already been translated?
Thread poster: Nicholas Ferreira

Nicholas Ferreira  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 23, 2007

A client recently approached me to ask for the translation of a large text (500+ pages), for which he is willing to pay a fair amount. However, in doing my research, I find that a translation of the text has recently been completed and published.

Should I just continue with the client as if I had no knowledge of this existing translation? I mean, they are willing to pay me...

And if I were to look at the published translation in making my own translation, would that be in some way dishonest? I am just thinking about his reaction when he finds that portions of the translation he has just paid for bear a "strong resemblance" to a translated text he didn't know had already been translated...

I mean, in all fairness, maybe the guy knows there is a translation published, but he doesn't care for it very much and wants a different version. I don't really feel like asking him if this is the case though (let sleeping dogs lie...)

Suggestions??


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
don't let that sleeping dog lie ... Feb 23, 2007

I know this is painful, but I would immediately notify my client.

If he is aware of the existence of the other translation, that's good news, and you get to translate the text anew.

If he doesn't know, however, and later finds out, what a terrible thing for him. And if he find out that you knew, what a blot on your reputation.

When you say it has been "published" that also raises the question of the legality of creating another version -- can it published? Would you put your client at risk of a lawsuit were he to publish a version when another exists?

No, in my opinion, you must tell your client immediately...


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xxxPRen  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:48
French to English
+ ...
Tell him Feb 23, 2007

This happens to me occasionally, and I ALWAYS tell the client. You better believe they appreciate it!

I believe that, as a professional, you are duty bound to inform him. He may be aware of the translation and have decided he would like another one, but I strongly suspect he is unaware of it and would appreciate being told. Don't forget, your reputation is on the line.

Paula


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Angeliki Papadopoulou  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 11:48
English to Greek
+ ...
I totally agree... Feb 23, 2007

... with Patricia (Hi Patricia) and PaulaRen. It is better to tell your client IMMEDIATELY!

Lina


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Melzie
Local time: 10:48
French to English
+ ...
do it Feb 23, 2007

Whenever I've had anything similar, I've always told the client. Believe me they really appreciate it and come back all the more willingly next time.
What you could do is show him what you've already done and, if he doesn't want you to continue, ask him to split the difference to cover your costs.

[Edited at 2007-02-23 17:19]


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:48
Italian to English
+ ...
Adding to the chorus... Feb 23, 2007

Definitely tell your client. The possible consequences of not saying anything are way too serious not to do so.

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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 02:48
French to Spanish
+ ...
Yes, say it to him. Feb 23, 2007

You can always pretend "you didn't know" (and that's all right, it's not your obligation), but could you sleep peacefully after that?
Strange, though, the publiser doesn't know there is a translation already... or he knows, but want a brand new one! In any case, tell him... he'll be greatfull, I'm shure.


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Adam Burman  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
Honesty, reputation and integrity Feb 23, 2007

First let me say I agree fully with Patricia's comments on your predicament.

From the sound of it, I was in a very similar situation to you. I was working on a medical text and while looking up some terms on the internet I found a text that was (almost) exactly the same.

I went through the same thought process as you. At first, I tried to convince myself it wasn't totally identical (a couple of the headings were slightly different), and therefore I should go ahead regardless. This didn't last long and I knew that for my own sanity, I would have to inform the client.

Anyway, in the end the client was amazed at my honesty and I still work for them from time to time now.

The client might never have know or found out but, for the sake of my integrity, I knew I only really had one option. After all, isn't your reputation everything?


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Nicholas Ferreira  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:48
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You're right: honesty is the best policy Feb 23, 2007

Thanks for the feedback. You are all right: at the end of the day, honesty is the best policy.

I just wrote to the client, and told him the possibility of getting his translation for $17.99. Let's see what he says...


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 02:48
French to Spanish
+ ...
17.99 Feb 23, 2007

Well, I don't know if he could get it for that price... there is something calle copyright, that includes translation, I guess.
Luck, and yes, honesty.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Are you sure it is a good translation? Feb 23, 2007

I would proof-read it and charge accordingly, because I would not want to recommend a translation I have not proof-read, yet.

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xxxAdrian MM.
Local time: 10:48
French to English
+ ...
Breach of copyright - go and see a lawyer Feb 23, 2007

You should not only notify the client, but seek legal advice straight away i.e. 'go and see a Solicitor/copyright lawyer', as you could be in breach of copyright, even if you change 'substantive tracts' of the wording and even if your text is non-literary.

I know someone who was in your position with the translation into English of a Russian novel by a modern Russian novelist who was starting to make a break-through.

My acquaintance translated 350 pages for NOTHING . He neither got published, nor got paid, as he had to forfeit his fee as an indemnity. It would have been cheaper to consult even an expensive lawyer BEFORE embarking on such a hazardous venture.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:48
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Notify client Feb 24, 2007

Nicholas Ferreira wrote:
A client recently approached me to ask for the translation of a large text (500+ pages), for which he is willing to pay a fair amount. However, in doing my research, I find that a translation of the text has recently been completed and published.


Notify the client. Do not use the existing translation. There may be a reason why the client wants to have a new translation (perhaps they're not satisfied with the existing one, or... perhaps they do not own or were unable to obtain the copyright to the existing translation).


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:48
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I disagree with Harry Feb 24, 2007

Harry Bornemann wrote:
I would proof-read it and charge accordingly.


The fact that the client owns copyright on the source text and the fact that you have been officially mandated by the client to produce a translation, does not mean that you own copyright to any existing translations of the source text. You can't simply give the client the other translation (even if you charge only for proofreading), because that other translation (and its copyright) does not belong to you... and it would appear that it doesn't belong to the client either.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Phone a lawyer.. Feb 24, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:
I disagree with Harry

On a second thought, I agree with you, because your strict interpretation of the copyright is likely to create work for translators (so I'll keep any counter-arguments for myself).

Tom Thumb wrote:
You should not only notify the client, but seek legal advice straight away i.e. 'go and see a Solicitor/copyright lawyer'..

I would be careful about seeking legal advice, because asking a lawyer about his opinion on a case is like sending him a PO, with the fees depending on the value in question (I'd guess 10% in this case).
So you should only do it when you are sure that you will need his advice.
Or you can ask him via phone, because afterwards, you can simply say that you did not say anything (a reputable notary recently played this trick on my lawyer).

I know someone who was in your position with the translation into English of a Russian novel by a modern Russian novelist who was starting to make a break-through.
My acquaintance translated 350 pages for NOTHING. He neither got published, nor got paid, as he had to forfeit his fee as an indemnity.

This may be a good reason for advanced payment, but why do you think a translator is obliged to verify that his client owns the copyright of a text he submitted?


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