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Translation test found published on their website. The agency: "Always acted according to the law".
Thread poster: Leonardo La Malfa

Leonardo La Malfa  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:09
English to Italian
+ ...
Oct 1, 2008

Dear all,

First of all, I would like to apologise if this is going to be a long post, despite my genuine efforts to keep it short. Please, bear with me. I would be very grateful to receive suggestions on the following issue:

December 2007
On 11 December 2007, I was notified of a translation job on another similar site, and it read exactly:

a marketing company based in Europe wants its 2008 internal documentation for new staff members to be transfered.
It's an amount of 10000 words paid 0.07 Euros per word.
The company required first a text sample to be translated. I do have the text so please contact me first with a brieve personnal presentation, with your CV attached which will be then forwarded to the account manager of the company.
They are very detailed and seek for localization translation into a modern vocabulary but respecting exactly the original format and length of text.

Required software: TRADOS, Wordfast.

Payment: 0.07 EUR per word


Since that day I still didn't know that "the company" behind this job posting was actually a translation agency, and that the poster himself was its project manager, I decided to take part in the selection process, completed their longish test (404 words) and sent it back. Now, the PM definitely sounded excessively flattering, and I also had a doubt about a discrepancy between the deadline stated in their job... I mean, test posting, and a different one the PM wrote in his first e-mail, so I asked for clarification. But he cut it short, gave me what seemed like the afterthought of an explanation, then closed with these exact words:

So no worries Leonardo you are in good hands and I am filing them what you worked on. Good work and I'll keep you posted if your profiles comes to b chosen".


He disappeared so he never kept me posted. I decided they had chosen someone else's "profiles", and then moved on.

July 2008
Alerted by a recent discussion (can't remember where, now) about finding one's own test translations on the internet, I google-searched bits of my past tests to check whether they ended up caught in the web. But, fortunately, I couldn't find any trace of them. Except exactly for the abovementioned test! And it was quite annoying, because I had already checked all the relevant folders, and that last file wasn't supposed to yield any exact match. I mean, this sort of things always happens to the others, who in turn write them down on fora, where you finally read about them... alright, I got it! Anyways, I decided to study the situation, saved the relevant pages from the website on my hard drive, and decided to follow Mr. PM’s advice: “no worries”! August was behind the corner, holidays weren't far away, I decided to put the issue momentarily aside not to poison the sun.

September 2008
Last Saturday I decided to write them a detailed e-mail with all my findings, with our previous e-mail exchange attached. My tone was calm, never threatening (I don't post it because it's long, but it's available to anyone, if any, interested in knowing both sides of the story) – nonetheless, I didn't fail to point out how embarrassing it was to find my own work published for advertising purposes by the same translation agency to which I was willing to apply for a potential collaboration which might have been mutually beneficial. Besides, in the end I also had the opportunity to verify that, although publicly posted as a 10,000 words job originally, it was nothing but a small project from the very start, instead. I made it clear that up to then I had refrained from adding a negative comment either on ProZ Blue Board or in... well, that board on the rival side, both international databases where XXXXX Translations and its General Manager keep an updated profile, standing out with a very good reputation in at least one of them. Now, I can't hide my fingers are itching... and they are itching very bad! BUT... I decided to wash them thoroughly, and come here to ask for suggestions, first.

What annoys me most is that although my profile has not been exactly chosen, nonetheless my translation has been shown publicly for quite some time now in its entirety: the page where it has been taking hostage shows 10 points, and mine covers points 6-10. It is true that superfluous smaller changes took place (for the Italian speakers, some conjunctions such as ed, ad were ridiculously reduced to e, a; some contractions applied, like di inquinamento -> d'inquinamento), but most of the times to their own detriment: two smaller corrections, for example, have been subsequently applied to my work, but the nature of the changes is utterly mysterious, for their only outcome seems to have been the introduction of two translation blunders that, unfortunately for the website, definitely suggest my text was not proofread by a native Italian speaker (O ancora meglio – or better still – becomes O ancora migliore; and come il caricabatterie del cellulare becomes come la carica batteria del cellulare).

Also, in my e-mail, I pointed that such a behavior is a patent breach of International Legislation on Copyright, according to which the translated text belongs to the translator until the invoice has been paid in full. However, although my translation was submitted on 12 December 2007 – which means that the payment is at least more than 8 months overdue – I wrote I was not interested in showing the translation market and my fellow colleagues how to damage the reputation of a translation agency – either through official boards, or the many mailing lists for professional translators – nor was I interested in demanding the interest determined by the national transposition of EU Directive 2000/35/CE, which are automatically to be applied to all overdue sums from the date on which they first become due (within 30 days of the delivery date). All I was interested in, at that point, was my invoice be paid as fast as possible – i.e. within the present week! And closed my e-mail with my invoice enclosed.

Yesterday evening, I received the following answer from them:

Dear Mr. La Malfa,

I am in receipt of your letter sent to me and to my Project Manager, and after a long review of its content (since it was 9 months ago) we find your suspicions and accusations to be unfounded.

We decided to hire a different translator for the Italian portion of the website based on many requirements, one of which was pricing. We regret that your services were not selected, but that’s no reason for going after clients and accusing them of breach of legislation of copyright.

We have been in the translation business for over 17 years now, and always acted according to the law, and always tried to be very fair with all of our language professionals; that’s why we have good ratings among the people we have worked with. I think you should be flattered that your translation is so close to the one performed by the translator we selected, in fact it is very reassuring to know that the translation we have agrees with so many people, that tells us is of good quality.

The translation text we have, not only has NOT been done by you, it has been translated and edited by 3 different professionals, who have been paid and are very happy with our co-operation.

So, we regret you have such poor opinion of us, but we can only assure you that your opinion is based on unfounded facts.

Sincerely,


Well, first of all pricing wasn't even part of the requirements; it wasn't even negotiable in the sense that in their job posting they had somehow already "hinted at their budget", in a sense. What I see here, despite their 17 years in the business, is a plain attempt to spare some coins by having a bunch of translators do an easy job, among whom to choose without even having to inform the lucky one who's been chosen because, by a cheap trick of consonants and apostrophes, they can pretend the text is a spick-and-span text (but can they really?). Should I point out to professionals like you their poor attempt to pass off a carbon copy of my translation as an original text that – oh-my-god-it-never-happened-in-history! – is the work of "3 different professionals" (thank god he specified that, for at first I thought they were only 3 identical professionals!), and that yielded exactly the same result as mine? I would be insulting you, for anyone knows it's impossible – it would be easier to bump into me from another dimension than to believe such bullshit! When they actually make up such a convoluted system to save some change in order to have their website translated in Italian for free (please note: their website is available in 5 more languages other than English), I wonder how could I possibly think to have my invoice settled.

October 2008
It goes without saying that names of the agency and of persons involved are privately available to anyone interested, particularly those who feel they might be involved in the aforementioned "test translation" – I'm sure there must be my "second half" out there (points 1-5); links will be also provided to the agency website, to their profiles here (and there) and everything which might be of any use to anyone who thinks it might be better to avoid such translation agencies in the future, just in case they might want to apply the same strategy with real translation jobs. One never knows, with their formidable trio of professionals...

Alright, this is drawing to a close now. The price of the invoice is negligible (merely € 50), I confess I would have cashed it and moved on. Instead, my fingers are now starting to itch once more, and I just need your go-ahead to visit the Blue Board and the... Caffeine Board (and all the relevant mailing lists for professionals translators I know of). Can I do it in this situation, although it was a test in the beginning which, due to circumstances, turned into a real job, for which they refused to pay the relevant invoice? I doubt I can collect my money in anyway (either for the small amount, and for their headquarters are in the US, although they have a branch in Switzerland), but any other suggestion will be more than welcome. What I really want now is to teach them a lesson, and to show colleagues that even when an agency says it has "good ratings among the people we have worked with", it doesn't mean anything, for it can just be a load of crap sold as delicious chocolate... and one should be empowered to tell the difference from the smell!

Many thanks and goodnight,
Leonardo


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xxxXX789  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:09
English to Dutch
+ ...
Go for it Oct 1, 2008

It's mathematically impossible to have another translator come up with a translation that close. 404 words... with 2 corrections... so let's say that 402 words are the same. Let's say that these 402 words consisted of 20 sentences with 20 words each, lowering the number of words to 400, and let's assume that there are 20 different ways to translate each sentence, which seems like a very realistic figure to me.

That means there are 20^20 possible translations... that is 1,04858E+26 possible translations.

But let's really really really give this client the benefit of the doubt and assume that there are only 2 ways to translate each sentence. That still gives 2^20 possible translations. That is 1048576 translations.

The chance that you get hit by a comet while watching CSI Investigation on a giraffe in the middle of Antartica is bigger.

Your client is a liar and should be exposed with all possible means.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 01:09
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Blue Board post Oct 1, 2008

Well, you HAVE worked for them, so you have a right to make a BB post I would think. I would do so. That would be just the start on my plan.

I don't recall the circumstances under which ProZ gets involved in payment dispute issues, but given that this involves a gross abuse of the portal, I would think that it would be in the company's interest to take note of this and perhaps take action.

To give an easier overview of the text similarities, you might use the Word comparison function (legal blackline) and print a PDF of the result.


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John Rawlins  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:09
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, please Blueboard this agency. Oct 1, 2008

Please ensure that your fellow translators know who these people are by making a Blueboard posting. As Kevin rightly points out - you have worked for this agency and you haven't been paid.

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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:09
Member
English to Turkish
Are they member of any association? Oct 1, 2008

If so, I would report them to their association/organization, trade chamber, even end clients - of course, in addition to warning colleagues in all relevant boards and platforms. You may not prove anything, but these guys are very likely to get involved in such unethical behavior again -as well as being very likely to have done so previously- and even if a small part of the people at the receiving end of such behavior complain and report, their reputation would be badly affected in the long run, even if you cannot gain anything right now. As Klingons say, revenge is a dish best served cold and some dishes may take longer to cool off

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Valérie Oliveira  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 01:09
French to Portuguese
+ ...
Such a shame... Oct 1, 2008

Regarding this unethical situation, I would also go for the Blueboard option with no hesitation.

Go ahead!


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 02:09
English to Hungarian
+ ...
I would... Oct 1, 2008

...remind them politely that such coincidences do not happen. Point out the number of words of the text and the extremely low number of differences between the two versions. Pointing out any minor quirks, errors, unusual phrases that got carried over would be the best.
If they stick to their guns, go crazy. Blue board, name and shame here and on other fora, whatever. Sue them if you feel like it and have lots of free time. Make sure they remember that taking a tiny financial "hit" of 50 EUR is always better than permanently damaging their reputation.

[Edited at 2008-10-01 17:13]


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:09
Member (2004)
English to Polish
On BB they belong... Oct 1, 2008

I also am of the opinion that this case belongs on the Blue Board. Moreover, I think you can be as specific as necessary (which is not allowed here), pointing the translators to the relevant pages. It well may be that the translators of other sections (and languages) will find their work there... which in turn will corroborate your story, if they post their findings on the Blue Board.

I was also quite interested in this passage:


Also, in my e-mail, I pointed that such a behavior is a patent breach of International Legislation on Copyright, according to which the translated text belongs to the translator until the invoice has been paid in full.


Could you give more specific reference? We were wondering about this issue at our last powwow...


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 01:09
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Ownership of the text Oct 1, 2008

>> Also, in my e-mail, I pointed that such a behavior is a patent
>> breach of International Legislation on Copyright, according to
>> which the translated text belongs to the translator until the
>> invoice has been paid in full.

Along the lines of "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade", in some cases where a client fails to pay or an agency wants an unpaid test translation, one could consider using part or all of it for advertising purposes as a sample translation in your profile. I got screwed once by a scamster on an interesting historical text and did just that. Although I don't do free tests any more, in a few cases my condition for not charging was that I could use it in this way.

In your case, you don't seem to be short of samples on your profile, and I certainly wouldn't let these people off the hook in this case, but in other situations such an approach may be worth considering.

[Edited at 2008-10-01 18:52]


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Leonardo La Malfa  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:09
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Cheers everybody! Oct 2, 2008

Dear all,

I truly want to thank you for taking the time to read my excessively long post (again, sorry about that). I am profoundly grateful to each and anyone of you for all the invaluable insights you gave me with your posts – all food for thought, indeed! And since Blue Board is what I wanted to hear, well, Blue Board it will be, then!

A few considerations before bed:
Loek van Kooten wrote:
The chance that you get hit by a comet while watching CSI Investigation on a giraffe in the middle of Antartica is bigger.

Your client is a liar and should be exposed with all possible means.

Your reasoning is so mathematically beautiful that I would almost copy and paste it into an e-mail to the agency as a conclusive proof, if I could only understand it fully. Just kidding (or am I?). It's just that I'm really bad at maths, so the giraffe suits me best, here. Thank you!
Kevin Lossner wrote:
Well, you HAVE worked for them, so you have a right to make a BB post I would think. I would do so.

John Rawlins wrote:
As Kevin rightly points out - you have worked for this agency and you haven't been paid.

Actually, I wasn't 100% sure about this, so thank you very much for your confirmation. Perhaps, this was the most important point that needed clarification in the whole post. Again, many thanks!
Özden Arıkan wrote:
Are they member of any association?
If so, I would report them to their association/organization, trade chamber, even end clients - of course, in addition to warning colleagues in all relevant boards and platforms.

That's a great advice, it would have never occurred to me to come up with such an ingenious thought. I will happily delve further in this direction, as well. Thank you for sharing this tip (and that nice quotation)!
Valérie Oliveira wrote
I would also go for the Blueboard option with no hesitation.

Go ahead!

FarkasAndras wrote:
If they stick to their guns, go crazy. Blue board, name and shame here and on other fora, whatever.

The thing is I already went crazy, after reading their shameless reply. Although for months they have been taking unlawful advantage of my translation (and of that of others, one might rightly suspect), they had the cheek to define a fair description of self-evident facts as "unfounded" "suspicions and accusations". Hence, they already stuck to their guns, so time has come to fight back. Thank you for your support!
Jabberwock wrote:
I was also quite interested in this passage:

Also, in my e-mail, I pointed that such a behavior is a patent breach of International Legislation on Copyright, according to which the translated text belongs to the translator until the invoice has been paid in full.

Could you give more specific reference? We were wondering about this issue at our last powwow...

I'm afraid we share the same interest, here. Unfortunately, in fact, I don't have any specific reference on the matter. Those words are the result of several discussions followed on different fora and mailing lists, as well as of a recollection of books read at the university (especially Lawrence Venuti's), but, as of now, I confess I wouldn't know how to back up my statement. My e-mail to the agency, however, wasn't supposed to replace a lawyer, but to stress that my rights were being trampled on. By the way, it would be extremely interesting if anybody could shed some light on this, and share his knowledge on the matter with us all. Thank you for bringing this passage to general attention, Jabberwock.
Kevin Lossner wrote:
Along the lines of "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade", in some cases where a client fails to pay or an agency wants an unpaid test translation, one could consider using part or all of it for advertising purposes as a sample translation in your profile.

It is already there, Kevin - same idea. Actually, it has been there for months, now. Who knows, maybe ProZ.com may testify to its long presence on this website, perhaps even before it appeared on that of the agency. Cheers!

A thousand more thanks, and goodnight everybody,
Leonardo


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xxxJPW  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:09
Spanish to English
+ ...
reference... Oct 2, 2008

A patent breach of International Legislation on Copyright


Are you referring to the Berne Convention?

More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_convention

And to some extent also here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Intellectual_Property_Organization_Copyright_Treaty

The following might be of interest to you, regarding breach of copyright.

I have in front of me an interesting letter to a computer magazine, a recent issue by the way, and the gist of which is as follows. This happened in the UK:-

A webmaster for an amateur theatre company used an image taken from Google images to promote some event or other on their website. Some time later he was rather surprised to receive a demand for £964 from a company for using the image without paying for it: the company stated that it owned the copyright to the image (a photo, in fact).

Among the paperwork which he received, it stated that there was no room for negotiation and that it was not acceptable to say that it wasn't known that the image was copyrighted, or that it was downloaded from another website (in this case, Google images).

The webmaster states that at the time of downloading the image, no rights warning was issued (presumably in the form of a pop-up box), and it was not his intention to defraud. Google images does in fact carry a rather vague statement that the photos it displays are subject to copyright: "Image may be scaled down and subject to copyright".

[An interesting point arises here: is Google in breach also, by displaying these images when you search for something specific on Google images? How do they get around this?]

Anyway, the case prodeeded as follows (this is the reply given by the computer magazine):

It seems that the amount demanded is the standard fee for copyright infringement. (The company, a photographic company, was seemingly pretty hot on the topic of copyright infringement - hence the specific demand for £964 - why not just call it an even thousand?.)

Although the letter received stated no room for negotiation was possible, you can in fact try to negotiate an agreement acceptable to both parties (the webmaster was in fact prepared to pay 'a few hundred pounds' just to get rid of the problem). He tried but the company ignored his attempts to resolve the matter.

When the magazine contacted the company to negotiate on his behalf, (his own efforts having fallen on deaf ears), the company finally agreed to withdraw their demand for £964 and accepted that there was no malicious intent in this case, but they insisted the image be withdrawn from the theatre company's website, which was done and the matter was resolved to everyone's (apparent) satisfaction.

The moral of the lesson I suppose is don't use images found online UNLESS they are specifically stated to be free to copy and use. the same rule of thumb applies to music, video, works of art and published texts.

How does this apply to your case? Well, the agency is using your translation on their website without permission: they didn't pay you for it, so the copyright still rests with you. In fact, from what I have read here, it seems they have been less than honest about the whole matter.

You should, at the very least, get paid for your work, but it might be worth while asserting a breach of copyright to the agency and that you intend to pursue it if they are unwilling to negotiate or bring the matter to a successful conclusion.

If you think or suspect that others have been misled in the same way, it may also be worth doing a bit of detective work, find out who they are, and contact them to see what their opinion is on the matter.

The company may think it can 'get away with' fobbing off one person's (in their view) unfounded claims of unlawful use of a text: but what if they suddenly received half a dozen e-mails or letters all claiming the exact same thing? Then they would be forced to at least deal with it, instead of the current 'ostrich in the sand' approach, i.e. ignore this person until he stops pestering us.

Good luck with it.


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Dana David Kogan  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 03:09
Romanian to Hebrew
+ ...
simple logic Oct 2, 2008

according to them, your translation was chosen for advertising their firm even though they had to pay extra to 3 proofreaders.



there is a simple logical question/argument


if they really chose another translation as the best for their needs, why didn't they advertise that one but yours instead?


thank you for posting your letter.
there is nothing to apologize for.
you just rendered a great service to us all.

please inform us of further developments.

dana


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Sonja Kroll  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:09
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
Completely OT: Oct 2, 2008

Don't apologise for long posts. Anyone here is free to read or close the eyes, and I don't consider myself to be an exception in enjoying your style.

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Leonardo La Malfa  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 02:09
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
When translation is Greener on the other side Oct 2, 2008

Hi John,

And thank you for both of your links. I can say they fully answer my question, in that they provide me with a stronger framework of reference for the future. I must say I am speaking for myself, though, for I don't know if they also provide Jabberwock with the specific benchmark he felt necessary to back up that particular passage, that is – if my interpretation is correct – whether it is legally true that the translated text belongs to the translator until the invoice has been paid in full. Anyways, I feel your answer is already enshrined in your interesting account of that letter regarding breach of copyright:
John Paul Weir wrote:
The moral of the lesson I suppose is don't use images found online UNLESS they are specifically stated to be free to copy and use. the same rule of thumb applies to music, video, works of art and published texts.

How does this apply to your case? Well, the agency is using your translation on their website without permission: they didn't pay you for it, so the copyright still rests with you. In fact, from what I have read here, it seems they have been less than honest about the whole matter.

At this point, I'd like to correct two inaccuracies from my first post. Firstly, the number of languages in which the agency website is available is 4 (not 5), apart from English, and namely: German, French, Spanish and Italian. Secondly, by focusing on my small test translation alone, I unwillingly restricted the extent to which the original project might have stretched, and overlooked the overall size of all the alternative linguistic versions of their website. As a consequence, I concluded that, although originally posted as a 10,000 words job, it was only a small project.
John Paul Weir wrote:
If you think or suspect that others have been misled in the same way, it may also be worth doing a bit of detective work, find out who they are, and contact them to see what their opinion is on the matter.

Indeed, since PM's misleading job posting read 10,000 words, it might be reasonable to at least suspect they had the potential to have the whole of their website translated into Italian with the same unlawful expedient; in addition, if the latter was employed also in the past, one might be led to think that the same could also be true for any of the other linguistic versions, as well. I wonder, therefore, if I am the only one... Anyone?

Some clarifications:
In my first post, I wrote I couldn't remember where I read about a recent exchange regarding one's own test translations found on the internet. Today I found it in this thread.

In my judgment, particularly interesting and relevant to this topic are the contributions posted by: fellner, MariusJacobsen, Rimma Kehr, Tom Thumb, FORMATION CFK and Anneli.
Dana David Kogan wrote:
thank you for posting your letter.
there is nothing to apologize for.

Sonja Kroll wrote:
Don't apologise for long posts. Anyone here is free to read or close the eyes, and I don't consider myself to be an exception in enjoying your style.

Now, that's something to be flattered by, Mr General Manager. Cheers, Sonja and Dana!
Dana David Kogan wrote:
please inform us of further developments.

P.S. Ooh, by the way, you're right! I was almost forgetting the most important thing: this afternoon they have been duly blue-boarded for the benefit of all. Thank you everybody for your invaluable contribution to this thread!

Goodnight,
Leonardo


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Cathy Flick  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:09
Member (2003)
Russian to English
+ ...
make sure to print out proof Oct 3, 2008

Make sure to print out and/or save to disk the part of the site in question, and get at least one other person to do so who is willing to confirm the date of printing. Otherwise, they could remove it and claim it was never there.

Peace, Cathy Flick


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Translation test found published on their website. The agency: "Always acted according to the law".

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