Translator copyright - suggestions needed
Thread poster: Supyo Hong

Supyo Hong
Local time: 18:30
English to Korean
Dec 12, 2011

I translated one book and the agency who placed this job declared bankruptcy and never paid for work.
The amount in stake is substantial, so it is hard for me to forget about it.

I contacted the owner of the book for possible negotiations before I exercise my copyright.
But they simply ignored my right and kept on saying they have paid for the service in full. It is sad to hear that, but I can understand their situation, too.

In this case, Do I have any right to stop the book owner from reproducing my translation, or I have to keep sending emails to my agent until she pays me. Better yet, Can I even ask for payment to someone who declared bankruptcy?

Please help me


Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:30
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Translations remain the property of the Service Provider until payment has been received in full Dec 13, 2011

Of course they will be in a breach of copyright if they publish your translation.

They made business with an intermediary that took money from them and furnished a translation whose copyright they did not own.

Take a look at the terms and conditions of the French Translators Association, SFT:
"Translations remain the property of the Service Provider until payment has been received in full."



Jean Lachaud  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:30
English to French
+ ...
L A W Y E R Dec 13, 2011

You mention there is a substantial sum involved. That is an additional reason to ask a LAWYER. In any country, en particularly so in the USA.


Krzysztof Kajetanowicz (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:30
English to Polish
+ ...
agree. Dec 13, 2011

This screams "lawyer". You need a lawyer. Certainly more than you need the "Terms and conditions of the French Translators Association". You're a creditor of a company in bankruptcy. You have rights. Whatever they are, they must be difficult to navigate without an expert in the subject matter.


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:30
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Lawyer Dec 13, 2011

Yes, contact a lawyer to represent your right. Also, ask him/her to contact the owner of the book to stop the publication based on forseeable copy right infringement.

I, too, understand the owner's position. However, you are the "author" (translator) of the book to be published, and I pressume that this owner does not have a release form which legally entitles him/her to publish the book.


RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:30
German to English
Governing law Dec 13, 2011

Which law governs the contract with the agency? In Germany - and I suspect many other countries - a translation can be used as soon as it's delivered, i.e. you can't stop the othe party from using the translation although they haven't paid for it. Consequently, the question of "copyright" and payment for the translation are not linked.

Additionally, in the EU, translator "copyright" is generally restricted to what are known as "moral rights", with the "exploitation rights" held by the copyright owner. Unless the terms of the contract stipulate otherwise, a translator cannot prevent the publication of a translation (paid for not or) unless the translation has been significantly (negatively) modified after delivery. The law in the United States is rather different, but the effect is the same (e.g. the holder of the copyright to the original text also holds copyright to all "derivative" works, including translations).

The upshot is that you cannot prevent the holder to the copyright (EU: exploitation rights) of the book from publishing the translation, even if you yourself haven't been paid.

Be that as it may, the suggestion that you consult a lawyer is definitely the right one. If you/your lawyer can demonstrate that the agency contracted with you knowing that its insolvency was inevitable, you might be able to "pierce the corporate veil" and claim directly against the assets of the agency owner(s).


Supyo Hong
Local time: 18:30
English to Korean
Thank you all! Dec 13, 2011

I appreciate all of your advices and information. This seems a very complicated matter in terms of legality. I will keep contacting my agent and see what she responds to me.

Many thanks!


John Fossey  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:30
Member (2008)
French to English
"Derivative" work Dec 14, 2011

In the US, a translation is a "derivative work". It is legally complex, but basically the original author's copyright and the translator's copyright are intertwined. A translator cannot translate something without the author's permission, but having done so the translator holds a copyright to the translation. Certainly, the translator's copyright is not extinguished if no compensation is received for the translation.

You definitely need a copyright lawyer to protect your interests here.


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Translator copyright - suggestions needed

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