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Can an agency force a translator to erase all files?
Thread poster: Maria Teresa Velez

Maria Teresa Velez  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:31
English to Spanish
Mar 26, 2013

Can a translation agency force a translator to erase all the files of work done for them during the years. There is a confidentiality agreement and that has to be respected. But is the agency entitled to oblige a translator erase files from their computer?

 

FarkasAndras
Local time: 09:31
English to Hungarian
+ ...
No Mar 26, 2013

Not unless it was stipulated in the original contract, I'd say.
They can "force" you not to share them with anyone else, and I imagine you could be liable if the files got out due to hacking/hardware theft etc. If something is really sensitive, I'm happy to delete the source and target files just to be rid of them. Of course good TMs are hard to let go.

[Edited at 2013-03-26 22:11 GMT]


 

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
If it's in the agreement... Mar 26, 2013

...than you should delete it. Otherwise, I don't think they can force you to delete anything. I have a few clients that ask that three months after the project is completed, that I delete all the files related to the project, but it is clearly defined in the contract. If there was any other communication stating that you needed to delete it, and you agreed to it, you might be obliged. One thing that's a little different here in the US is that almost anything can form a contract, it doesn't have to be an official signed document (there are actually only a few situations in which a contract has to be in writing).

It begs the question though, what is it that you don't want to delete?


 

Trudy Peters  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:31
German to English
+ ...
I had to do it once Mar 27, 2013

I had to delete the computer files, destroy the floppies and shred everything that was printed out. But I knew the client personally, so I happily obliged.

The only reason I wouldn't want to delete something would be if I thought the client might come back later and claim something wasn't translated correctly.


 

Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:31
Never heard of such thing Mar 27, 2013

Even if an agency forces you to erase (delete) the files on your computer, there would be no way that the agency can check if you have really done so.

Is this agency in question just taking preventive measures against hackers/identity thefts, or are there any other reasons for asking you to do so?


 

Leena vom Hofe  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:31
Member (2005)
English to German
+ ...
Can be contradictory to national Law Mar 27, 2013

Hi There,

This isn't possible if it is contradictory to national law. As it is in Germany. We are bound to save all files for ten years in my home country.

So no way for me to delete any files I worked on.

But if it's stipulated in the original contract and no law speaks against it, it must be possible.

You know even if I signed such a contract I would be bound by the law and that would mean that this clause would be void.

Please check all this carefully.


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 09:31
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
The law Mar 27, 2013

Leena vom Hofe wrote:

Hi There,

This isn't possible if it is contradictory to national law. As it is in Germany. We are bound to save all files for ten years in my home country.

So no way for me to delete any files I worked on.

But if it's stipulated in the original contract and no law speaks against it, it must be possible.

You know even if I signed such a contract I would be bound by the law and that would mean that this clause would be void.

Please check all this carefully.



I agree with Leena. Local laws over rule any agreements.

In case your laws demand that you keep all files for however many years, then you should inform your client rather than risking a breech of contract.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:31
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Yes, what do your country's laws say? Mar 27, 2013

Thayenga wrote:
Leena vom Hofe wrote:
This isn't possible if it is contradictory to national law. As it is in Germany. We are bound to save all files for ten years in my home country.

In case your laws demand that you keep all files for however many years, then you should inform your client rather than risking a breech of contract.


When I get this "delete" clause in NDA's I sign it without modifying the NDA, but I do inform the client at that time that my own country's laws force me to keep all business correspondence (including file attachments) for 7 years. This renders such a clause practically unenforceable.

As far as I know, Dutch law only requires that *correspondence* (and administrative documentation, including e.g. contracts) be kept for 7 years. The files we receive from clients are not documentation in the usual sense, but are actually part of resources and product. So if a client gets the files to me via a FTP and gets me to deliver it via FTP, then I don't have to retain it for 7 years.

After all, you don't force a plumber to keep all the cut-offs of all the pipes he's fixed for 7 years, so it makes no sense to force a paper worker to keep all his left-over papers if those papers are related to the the actual work he does and not to the administration of his business.

However, I think it is unfair of clients to expect translators to keep track of all the bits of paper they get from clients. If a client wants me to delete files, then he should not say "oh, just delete it after three months" but rather tell me on a per-project basis when he wants me to delete the files.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:31
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Even if it is not in the contract... Mar 27, 2013

It is their files (or their customers' files) and you would not have had access to them unless they had sent them to you, so I think they are totally entitled to ask you to delete them and to certify that you did do, even if it was not specifically stated in the confidentiality agreement. What matters is the spirit of a confidentiality agreement in my opinion.

Of course, if local law forces you to keep the files, then you should and should explain so to the customer. As far as I am aware, in Spain what law forces you to keep is administrative records of the business transaction (invoices, purchase orders, bank records...) for five years, but not the files that contain translation work.

[Edited at 2013-03-27 07:51 GMT]


 

xxxnrichy
France
Local time: 09:31
French to Dutch
+ ...
Afaik Mar 27, 2013

As far as I know, this clause was initially meant for software developers. So if you translate/localize a game, you are entitled to erase all files after a certain lapse of time, or even immediately, thus minimizing the risk (for the developer this is a real risk) that things become publicized/are sold. The same is true for advertisements and, in another field, medicine drugs.
In these cases there is a huuuuge amount of money involved, and this has priority over the translator's individual comfort and tax requirements.

By the way, what do you do when your computer has to be repaired?
And what if you have a motherboard crash?
Do you destroy your old hard drive or do you give your computer to the local Fondation Abbé Pierre or Salvation Army?
No, this is not another subject. It's also about possible data leakage.

[Edited at 2013-03-27 08:50 GMT]


 

ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 10:31
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
No Obligation to Erase Mar 27, 2013

In my opinion, a translation agency can NOT force a translator to erase all the files of work done for them during the years. The most a translation agency can do is to request it, and expect that the translator erases the files. But it is totally at the translator's discretion to erase them. Of course, if there is a contract signed between the parties, that may change the situation.

 

RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:31
German to English
Only for business records Mar 27, 2013

Leena vom Hofe wrote:
This isn't possible if it is contradictory to national law. As it is in Germany. We are bound to save all files for ten years in my home country.


This rule applies only to business records such as invoices (10 years), quotations (but only if they resulted in an order - 6 years)) and business correspondence (6 years), i.e. documents that the tax authorities might wish to inspect in the event of a tax audit. It most definitely does *not* apply to translation source and target texts, terminology and any other project-related files. The statutory document retention period generally ranges from 6 to 10 years. Lists of document retention periods are available on the web or from your tax adviser.


 

RobinB  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:31
German to English
As a rule, yes Mar 27, 2013

Many corporate clients now insist on the option to require all project-related files to be deleted on demand. For some projects, deletion at the end of the project is mandatory - for example, once the project has been paid, and provided the client waives all statutory and/or contractual warranties for the project concerned.

However, these issues are normally governed by contract (e.g. confidentiality agreement), rather than being suddenly imposed on the translator. Serious agencies already have relevant provisions in their (master) agreements with freelance translators.

Please remember that you do not "own" your translation (though this may differ in the case of literary translations), and you certainly don't have any rights to the source text. So if a client wants you to delete all files relating to a project, that's something you'll just have to live with. What makes sense is to negotiate an opt-out for files such as terminology lists, provided they don't contain any proprietary terminology. Most corporates are quite flexible about this sort of thing.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:31
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Compliance with a standard Mar 27, 2013

I think that some agencies ask their freelancers to delete all files and to sign an agreement to that effect in order to comply with a quality-control or other standard they are seeking to obtain.
I have one client who wants all files deleted and another who wants them kept for at least six years.
What intrigues me is how the client could possibly know whether the translator has in fact deleted the files (or, indeed, kept them for six years). They're hardly likely to want or be able to come to the office of each freelancer and check their computers, so it all seems a bit academic to me.
My own preference is to keep all my translations in an archive for at least two years, for reference. However, if the client wants me to delete them, then of course, that is what I do.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:31
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
If I know in advance, I keep the project isolated Mar 27, 2013

I do sometimes get people's sensitive personal documents and so on, and then, if asked, I create a special TM for the project and keep everything connected with it in separate folders. These can then be deleted as agreed.

Often they are not of great value to my general TM, which I can still use as 'reference only' without updating it while I work on that particular project. But of course, client confidentiality takes precedence.

Then I can delete the sensitive material. AFAIK the legal requirements here are that I keep correspondence and invoices, but am in no way obliged to keep sensitive material.

But it would be quite impossible to remove all evidence of several years' collaboration after the event.


 
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