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Sample translation copyright issues
Thread poster: Lorraine Bathurst

Lorraine Bathurst
Local time: 09:12
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mar 30, 2008

Hi all

I am new to translation and having just graduated as a mature student in languages and fed-up making money for others I am trying to make this into a sustainable career.

I am considering doing an MA in translation (a distance learning course), but have been advised that experience is probably just, if not more valuable.

Therefore I am trying to get some volunteer work just to get some experience. But to do that I need to show what I can do.

I wanted to translate a few extracts covering my specialities and post them on my website, but I am unsure as to the copyright law.

When I worked for a childrens' charity it was acceptable to use short extracts as long as the source was fully acknowledged. However, I am not sure that this would be acceptable for a private website trying to make money.

Cany anyone help.

Many thanks

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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:12
Italian to English
Grey area so play safe Mar 31, 2008

Hi Lorraine,

Internet copyright is a notoriously grey area of law so you're best to play safe.

I have posted work I did for a couple of customers in the portfolio of my Proz profile but I took the precaution of asking them first and including links to their websites where the originals and translations are published.

Most copyright holders won't mind. After all, it's a little extra publicity for them, too.



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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:12
Turkish to English
+ ...
My experiences Mar 31, 2008

For a long time, I have posted sample translations of topical news articles on my website. I always state the name and date of the publication and give the author's name, where this was provided in the original publication.

I have occasionally been thanked by the authors of these articles for making them available to a wider audience. Recently, however, I received a warning notice asking me to take down one of these translations, not from the author or publisher, but from the legal representative of a person mentioned in the article, who considered the claims made about him to be libelous. I complied immediately with this notice.

In my opinion, provided the texts you translate are in the public domain and you quote the source, nobody is likely to be worried about them appearing on a translator's website as samples of their work. The worst that can happen is that you will receive a notice demanding that you remove a text, and in such cases you should comply.

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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:12
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Public domain Mar 31, 2008

There are a number of texts in the public domain or where permission is explicitly granted. I have some texts from Wikipedia in my samples, for example. Wikipedia explicitly says that you may copy their texts if you provide attribution to them, which I have done. And if the text is old enough, there is no copyright.

If you're approaching specific organizations as a potential volunteer, you can always ask them for texts. I suspect they ask for samples because they think it's a matter of simply sending files you already created for the purpose. (For some translators, it is.)

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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 00:12
English to Russian
+ ...
A lot of websites will be happy to have translation done for free Mar 31, 2008

There are plenty of websites that actively seek volunteer translation, and and plenty of others who will be more than happy if you approach them with your offer. There is no need to translate something without a permission and then worry if you have violated copyright law.

Find websites that you like and with whose message you agree and approach them with an offer to do translation as a volunteer. The majority of them will be only too happy.

Good luck to you.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:12
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Wikipedia Mar 31, 2008

Lorraine B wrote:
I wanted to translate a few extracts covering my specialities and post them on my website, but I am unsure as to the copyright law.

Get some articles from the Wikipedia -- you can legally sell them for profit, without paying royalties to the original authors (on condition that if you create a derived work, such as a translation, the derived work should carry the same licence).

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Local time: 09:12
Chinese to English
Similar situation Apr 8, 2008

I'm in a similar situation. Most of my previous work cannot be used due to copyright and privacy issues so I'd be interested in learning what material I could use to demonstrate my translation skills.

Wikipedia seems like a good option, especially for specialist topics. What are the copyright laws regarding news articles? Would it be alright to translation news articles if the original authors and/or editors are credited?

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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:12
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Slightly off-topic: MA Apr 9, 2008

On a different note, I wouldn't completely dismiss the MA. Of course, I'm biased because I hold an MA in translation, but I think a good program provides sort of a shortcut into the profession (benefit from other people's experience rather than having to reinvent the wheel) and the networking and contacts can be invaluable. Just a thought.

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