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Agency filing translators' signature to use for certification???
Thread poster: Katalin Horváth McClure

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:09
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Apr 8, 2011

I just got a "Translator Agreement" from an agency (we are discussing possible future work).
After the actual agreement, text with place for signatures and dates, comes another paragraph that I quote here (bold emphasis is mine):

TRANSLATION CERTIFICATION

Occasionally, our clients request that we deliver a translation certification signed by the translator together with a completed translation. For this purpose, we keep translators’ signatures on file, so we can use them to certify a translation, if needed. Please indicate whether or not we may keep your signature on file for this purpose.
If yes, please sign in the center of the signature field below (avoid writing on the lines).
If you do not sign, we understand that we may NOT keep your signature on file for this purpose.

Huh???
Is it only me finding this very strange, and possibly illegal? I mean could an agency legally copy-paste somebody's signature on a certified translation? As far as I am concerned, I would only certify a translation if I translated it myself (or edited somebody else's translation), so in practical terms, I am the last person in the chain to touch the translation, before the document goes to the end client, and I am responsible for the content of it. But in that case I would attach the certificate myself and sign it myself, right? Otherwise, my signature could end up on a document that was translated or edited by somebody else.
What do you all think?

Katalin


[Edited at 2011-04-08 06:15 GMT]


 

Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:09
English to French
+ ...
Agreed Apr 8, 2011

I'm with you.

I seem to remember that someone started a discussion about a very similar signature-on-file agreement a few weeks ago.


 

Germaine  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 22:09
English to French
+ ...
No, thanks! Apr 8, 2011

My signature engage my responsibility. Trust is a nice thing but you learn everywhere - and specially here, reading some stories - that l'enfer est pavé de bonne intentions! So, no, thanks! My signature won't get "handy".

P.S.: I would still replace "may not" by "shall not".

[Edited at 2011-04-08 02:24 GMT]


 

Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:09
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
ATA number Apr 8, 2011

An agency once asked me for my ATA number so they could certify translations with it. I ignored the request.

This is the first I've heard of anyone keeping a translator's signature on file.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:09
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Quite simple - NO! Apr 8, 2011

No way! I hope translators are not as stupid as to allow a company to use their signature liberally! It is plain cheeky that this company holds such a scheme.

 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:09
German to English
almost certainly illegal Apr 8, 2011

Hello Katalin
As with JL01, this issue is familiar to me. I don't think it came up here, but in u-forum or in the "Übersetzer Lounge".

However, there the issue was officially certified translations: the agencies were seeking and apparently often receiving otherwise blank sheets of paper stamped with a translator's seal.

The discussion finally ended, because no one had any concrete evidence linking specific agencies to this very dubious (and presumably illegal) practice.

That is where your question comes in: You now have a similar request in writing.

To put it extremely bluntly: anyone who gives a copy of their signature to someone else for the express purpose of pasting it into documents is insane.

On the agency's side, I can't imagine that this isn't forgery even with your express permission. I also can't imagine that your signature is legally binding under these circumstances. If not, some sort of fraud in relation to the agency's customer is also involved (he or she buys an apparently signed translation that is not really signed).

Why don't you just ask for the agency's certification form and offer to fax a signed copy whenever this is an issue? And, above all, why didn't the agency think of that?

Sincerely,
Michael


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 04:09
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
No way! Apr 8, 2011

I would simply not sign at all if I suspected they were going to use my signature in that way. It is illegal everywhere I have ever been, and consenting to use of my signature in that way would make me a party, even if I did not know what I was a party to!!!

I would not want them to put anyone else's signature on my work either...


 

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:09
Italian to English
+ ...
I would ask for clarification Apr 8, 2011

My automatic assumption was that they would keep your signature on file so they could use it to certify YOUR translations - without you having to do it every time. If they confirm that this is what they mean, and if you trust them, I see no reason why this shouldn't be done (with the usual I'm-not-a-lawyer proviso - I have no idea if this would also be considered illegal).

 

Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:09
English to Czech
+ ...
Absolutely not Apr 8, 2011

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

My automatic assumption was that they would keep your signature on file so they could use it to certify YOUR translations - without you having to do it every time. If they confirm that this is what they mean, and if you trust them, I see no reason why this shouldn't be done (with the usual I'm-not-a-lawyer proviso - I have no idea if this would also be considered illegal).


If anything I have done is to be certified, then I am the one to do it. If I exaggerate a little, how would you know that your signature all of a sudden doesn't appear on a credit loan agreement?

Just like Michael, I am almost sure that this whole thing would be illegal. And giving your consent to illegal actions is illegal just as well.

This is not about trust: it's all about knowing the value of your signature.

[Upraveno: 2011-04-08 10:06 GMT]


 

IPtranslate (X)
Brazil
English to Dutch
+ ...
Yes, indeed Apr 8, 2011

Stanislav Pokorny wrote:


If anything I have done is to be certified, then I am the one to do it. If I exaggerate a little, how would you know that your signature all of a sudden doesn't appear on a credit loan agreement?

Just like Michael, I am almost sure that this whole thing would be illegal. And giving your consent to illegal actions is illegal just as well.

This is not about trust: it's all about knowing the value of your signature.

[Upraveno: 2011-04-08 10:06 GMT]


 

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:09
Italian to English
+ ...
And what's to stop them from doing that anyway? Apr 8, 2011

Stanislav Pokorny wrote:

If I exaggerate a little, how would you know that your signature all of a sudden doesn't appear on a credit loan agreement?

Just like Michael, I am almost sure that this whole thing would be illegal. And giving your consent to illegal actions is illegal just as well.

This is not about trust: it's all about knowing the value of your signature.


If I sign a translation certificate, the agency (or a disreputable employee thereof) is perfectly capable of scanning my signature and using it however they want - whether I've given my permission or not for one particular use makes no difference at all! It's absolutely about trust in your clients - otherwise you should never let them have your signature at all, in any way, shape or form. Or anyone else, for that matter.

[Edited at 2011-04-08 11:02 GMT]


 

Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 04:09
English to Czech
+ ...
Very different Apr 8, 2011

Marie-Hélène Hayles wrote:

Stanislav Pokorny wrote:

If I exaggerate a little, how would you know that your signature all of a sudden doesn't appear on a credit loan agreement?

Just like Michael, I am almost sure that this whole thing would be illegal. And giving your consent to illegal actions is illegal just as well.

This is not about trust: it's all about knowing the value of your signature.


If I sign a translation certificate, the agency (or a disreputable employee thereof) is perfectly capable of scanning my signature and using it however they want - whether I've given my permission or not for one particular use makes no difference at all! It's absolutely about trust in your clients - otherwise you should never let them have your signature at all, in any way, shape or form. Or anyone else, for that matter.

[Edited at 2011-04-08 11:02 GMT]


First of all, I think that the very requirement is totally absurd and I'd never give my signature away.

Anyways, if they scan my signature from any document I sign for them, I can easily prove that they are using my signature without my consent.

OTOH, if they do have my prior written consent to use my signature (legal or not), I can imagine situations where things may become quite complicated for me.


 

Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:09
Italian to English
+ ...
Fair enough Apr 8, 2011

Stanislav Pokorny wrote:

First of all, I think that the very requirement is totally absurd and I'd never give my signature away.


Fair enough, but that didn't seem to be your point when you first replied to me.

Anyways, if they scan my signature from any document I sign for them, I can easily prove that they are using my signature without my consent.

OTOH, if they do have my prior written consent to use my signature (legal or not), I can imagine situations where things may become quite complicated for me.


Well, we're getting into I'm-not-a-lawyer territory here, but I can't see how having agreed to them C&Ping your signature onto a translation certificate for a document you actually translated can possibly be interpreted as carte blanche agreement for them to use your signature in any way they like.

Anyway, I agree it's a moot point if you refuse your authorisation in the first place, as it's certainly within your rights to do.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:09
German to English
carte-blanche scenario is not the issue Apr 8, 2011

Hello Marie-Hélène,
I agree on the "not a lawyer territory", but the logic seems pretty clear. At least in Germany and the US signatures are not really signatures unless they are mailed or (at least in Germany) appropriately faxed. That is why, for example, agencies insist on mailing or faxing signed copies of their terms and conditions. They are not interested in an e-mail that says "OK" or a scanned PDF. They want a document that is 100% clearly legally binding.

I agree with Stanislav: If I give written permission to an agency that they can deceive their customers into thinking that they are buying a translation with my signature, then I am directly involving myself in the agency's wrong-doing. If it does all of this on its own, then it is not my problem.

Again, my question: Why doesn't the agency just ask for a fax or (if necessary) an express postal delivery (can't cost the world) of a signed copy of the form?

Sincerely,
Michael


 

Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:09
Romanian to English
+ ...
A quite common (and illegal) practice among some agencies here in RO Apr 8, 2011

I thought this practice was common only among "neighborhood" (=cheap, around-the-corner) translation agencies in my country...

Very often these agencies ask for hard copies of a translator's signature, "just to make it faster to certify translations if needed". This is absolutely illegal in my view - there is no guarantee they would print YOUR translation on the back side and not a cheaper translation of a student for which YOU will be held responsible. Or worse, they could use it for forging documents that must be submitted in a translated form with various authorities (e.g. customs papers). It's like a doctor signing a blank prescription.
Even if you decide to work with such agencies, seeing that they even considered such an option, you should make sure the contract also includes a clause which protects you, something like: "for all translations certified by Translator, an original (i.e. not faxed, not scanned, but original) signed & stamped copy of the source text must be kept on file both by Translator and Agency".

Edited to add:
There was a famous criminal case here, featuring a woman who failed the translator certification exam. Claiming she wanted to speed up the certification process when needed, she collected copies with the original signatures of other certified translators. She used them for forging documents, she even forged her own university diploma. Not sure where she is now, after several convictions.
Summa summarum: I find it absolutely illegal to give out papers signed in blank.

[Edited at 2011-04-08 13:18 GMT]


 
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