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Responsibility for Copyright
Thread poster: Claudia J.
Claudia J.
United States
Local time: 08:15
German to English
+ ...
Oct 11, 2007

Dear all,

As I am a fairly new self-employed translator, I have a question regarding copyright.

Do I have to check where the copyright lies for any text a client wants me to translate? Or can I avoid this somehow? Who is responsible for making sure that the person who wants the translation holds the copyright and is allowed to have the respective text translated?

I can't imagine the logistics of making sure that every one of my clients is the copyright holder of each text.

Please, if you have any information about this, please post.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:15
English to French
+ ...
Common practice Oct 11, 2007

Since you are only translating the material and not publishing it, the responsibility lies with the client. Copyright law applies to those who publish the material.

As translator, it is not your responsibility to check if the client holds permission to publish the translation. Imagine if it were - we would really be underpaid!


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:15
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Ask them Oct 11, 2007

If you ask them whether they have the relevant copyright permission, you can always say later that you relied on their representation (particularly if you keep a record that you asked them, say, on a checklist). Photocopying shops often have signs indicating that the customer may not make copies in violation of copyright.

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Claudia J.
United States
Local time: 08:15
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Oct 11, 2007

YAY!!!!!

Thats what I was hoping. In any case my General Terms and Conditions contain a close to the effect that by accepting them my client states that he holds the copyright....

Does anyone know whether this applies in any country? Germany in particular?

Thanks!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Depends on your country, but... Oct 11, 2007

clawitter wrote:
Do I have to check where the copyright lies for any text a client wants me to translate?


No. You do not need permission from the copyright holder to translate a document. Remember, anyone may translate (or get translated) a document without permission from the copyright holder... but they can't publish the translation without the copyright holder's consent.

This means that you, the translator, who gets paid for the translation, not for the copyright, can translate even if you know that the client doesn't have permission from the copyright holder, because the onus is on the client to get permission if he wants it.

There is only one snag... but it is a very minor snag: even though you own copyright on your translation, you can't publish your translation without consent from the copyright holder of the original. But normally a translator doesn't publish his own stuff anyway -- his client does that.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Depends on the country... Oct 11, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
Copyright law applies to those who publish the material.


Well, that is not a universal thing, Viktoria. In my country, copyright law applies whether you publish the text or not... and I had thought that that is the way of most countries.


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Claudia J.
United States
Local time: 08:15
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
do I see a contradiction? Oct 11, 2007

Thanks for the reply. It seems once you are saying "copyright law applies whether you publish the text or not" and assume that this is true in most countries and in the other post you basically say it doesn't matter whether you translate anything as long as you don't publish it.

Which is it?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Which copyright? Oct 11, 2007

clawitter wrote:
In any case my General Terms and Conditions contain a close to the effect that by accepting them my client states that he holds the copyright...


What the client probably means is that if you sign his contract, then he will hold copyright to your translation.

Remember, the translation is a literary work in its own right and is protected by copyright law as a seperate work. Even if the client is a copyright holder of the original, that does not mean he is a copyright holder of the translation. The reverse is also true -- the copyright holder of the translation is not automatically also the copyright holder of the original.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
There is no contradiction Oct 11, 2007

clawitter wrote:
It seems once you are saying (1) "copyright law applies whether you publish the text or not" ... and ... (2) basically ... it doesn't matter whether you translate anything as long as you don't publish it.


There is no contradiction in my two posts (as far as my own country's laws are concerned -- don't know about yours):

1. Copyright law applies regardless of what you do with a copyrighted work (i.e. whether you publish it or not).

2. Copyright law permits you to translate something (or have it translated for you) for your own personal use (and for a few other purposes, eg research, fair usage/fair use, etc).

The fact that you are permitted to do something doesn't mean that the law doesn't apply. The law does apply -- and it's application is to permit you to do what you do.

This may sound a little like splitting hairs, but I think it is important for a translator to recognise the distinction.

[Edited at 2007-10-11 20:31]


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Claudia J.
United States
Local time: 08:15
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I don't understand Oct 11, 2007

I'm sorry, I still don't see how those two statements are not contradictory.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:15
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Since no-one is answering... Oct 12, 2007

clawitter wrote:
I'm sorry, I still don't see how those two statements are not contradictory.


I was hoping that someone else may respond, because I already have too many posts in this thread, but since no-one is responding, I'll respond. Clawitter, tell me how you think my two statements contradict, and perhaps I can figure out why you misunderstand me (and them).


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Claudia J.
United States
Local time: 08:15
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Trying to get to the bottom of the problem... Oct 12, 2007

"1. Copyright law applies regardless of what you do with a copyrighted work (i.e. whether you publish it or not)."

"2. Copyright law permits you to translate something (or have it translated for you) for your own personal use (and for a few other purposes, eg research, fair usage/fair use, etc)."


"No. You do not need permission from the copyright holder to translate a document. Remember, anyone may translate (or get translated) a document without permission from the copyright holder... but they can't publish the translation without the copyright holder's consent."

These are three statements you made and I'll try to explain why I don't understand:

1) If copyright laws apply regardless, then how does one not need permission from a copyright holder to translate this document?
2) I can see how one can translate everything but not publish it without the holder's consent, but either everything regardless of publication is subject to the copyright, or else it is not as long as it is not published.
3) If your statement (1) above is true, then the translator would be just as responsible for the protection of the copyright as the client.

I still don't think I am making myself entirely clear, but I hope we are getting closer at understanding each other.


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Daniel García
English to Spanish
+ ...
It is not a contradiction Oct 16, 2007

I will try to explain because the law is similar in Spain (and I think in other countries):



1) If copyright laws apply regardless, then how does one not need permission from a copyright holder to translate this document?


The law says that the author has the right to control (i.e. to authorise) whether his or her work is translated with some exceptions.

The law says which exceptions these are and there for that's why the copyright law applies to the translation whether you publish or not (the author still holds his or her rights, even if you don't publish).


2) I can see how one can translate everything but not publish it without the holder's consent, but either everything regardless of publication is subject to the copyright, or else it is not as long as it is not published.

Everything, regardless of publication, is subject to the copyright. Even if you don't need permissions to translate if you don't publish the translation, the original author holds some rights over your translation (and therefore copyright law still applies, even if you don't publish).



3) If your statement (1) above is true, then the translator would be just as responsible for the protection of the copyright as the client.


To a certain extend, yes. If you are comissioned to make a translation and you know that it is an infringement of the copyright law, you are obliged to inform you customer about it and you should not do the translation.

The owner of a photocopy shop is in the same position when they receive an order to photocopy material which they know is copyrighted.

I hope this helps!

Daniel


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Claudia J.
United States
Local time: 08:15
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Brings me back to the beginning Oct 16, 2007

This brings me back to my original question in how far I, as translator, am responsible for making sure that the customer is the holder of the copyright.
I don't think it's feasible to do so because how am I supposed to check the customer. But if I don't check then I might be infringing copyright, as I might translate something that is protected and not allowed to be translated by the author/copyright holder.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:15
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
The point is... Oct 17, 2007

What is in the copyright law?

1. It says: you cannot publish anything unless you (or whoever wants to publish) owns the copyright or has permission from the copyright owner to do so.

2. It says: you can translate anything for your or somebody else's personal use etc.

So if the copyright law applies - and it does - it gives permission to translate anything, as long as its is.....blah, blah.

In other words it doesn't prohibit the translator to translate the work. It prohibits the publication of it. That's the long or short of it, and there is no contradiction.
I hope that makes it clear.


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