Do you have a right as a translator to get a copy of your translation?
Thread poster: jfabre

jfabre  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 16:10
Member (2013)
German to French
+ ...
Jun 20, 2016

Hi everybody,

I suspect this subject has already been posted, but I couldn't find anything yet. So if this is the case, just let me know where to look at it.

A good client (agency) I have been working with for years has now started to work with a Trados server (the translator connects to the server from his own computer). I'll just say that the translation process is not running smoothly. Among other issues, they claim that, for confidentiality matters, the translator has to work on the server with no possibility to interact between his own system and the server (No access to Internet from the server, no copy-paste between the translator computer and the server). That makes the translation work really slow, the translator has to switch constantly between the server and his computer for Internet research, for example, can't use his own references and so on. I just finished one of these jobs and asked to receive the translation for my archive. Again, I got a "sorry, confidential", and no target translation. The silly thing is that they sent me the source beforehand so that I could see what the text is about before I accepted the job. So much for "confidential".

Now, I know that I don't own the copyright of the translation. But I was wondering if I have any right to get a copy of my own work? I usually keep (secured) records of my translations for later reference, and in this case, for terminology. I'm not ready to accept that the research I've done for this job is lost for me (I didn't do a double record for my own system, that would have cost too much time).

I'm going to talk with them, again. I'm not sure if they've ever heard of NDA... But for the time being, has anyone information on the legal side of the whole thing? My client is in Switzerland and I'm in the EU (Sweden).

Thanks in advance for your insights!


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JaneD  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 16:10
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Maybe not the relevant question? Jun 20, 2016

I'm afraid I can't advise you about the legal aspect - though I suspect that you don't have the right to a copy of your translation, if the agency has set up such a system.

My question would be whether it's worth continuing to work under such restrictive conditions? Personally I never work with online or cloud-based tools because they often have this kind of speed reduction built in (lack of access to your own terminology resources, for example). And it's surprising how often, in the face of a refusal, agencies say "Oh, well in that case just do it however you like".

Though I have to say even then I've never heard of anything as restrictive as this; working with a Trados server doesn't usually pose any problems in terms of workflow obstacles or speed reduction. And even if it's for some kind of confidentiality reasons on the end client's part, the fact that the agency is sending you the source text in advance seems inconsistent!

My advice - and I appreciate you've probably already seriously considered this - is to just refuse to do any more work under these circumstances. My feeling is that the agency has set up their Trados server incorrectly and doesn't realise how much more difficult it is for you to work like this.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 15:10
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I don't know! Jun 20, 2016

All this is extremely unusual and, personally, I wouldn’t work under those conditions: it’s like being hired as a freelancer to work in-house in a company…

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 16:10
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I would not work under those conditions Jun 20, 2016

If the client insisted, I would either refuse to work under the conditions you describe, or raise my rate quite a bit to compensate for the inconvenience.

Clients are more or less entitled to set any conditions they like, but as a freelancer, not an employee, you are also entitled to set yours, or refuse to take on their jobs.

I would explain about NDAs and professional ethics (Endorse Proz.com's professional Guidelines, and I personally as a Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists am bound by their Code of Conduct etc.). If they still will not agree to your terms, drop them and look for clients who will.

Give clients feedback, positive and negative - if they don't know what they are doing wrong, they will not change, and if they don't know what they are doing right, they might 'improve' things in the wrong direction!


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Meta Arkadia
Local time: 22:10
English to Indonesian
+ ...
You don't own the copyright... Jun 20, 2016

... but you do own the IP.

That makes the translation work really slow, the translator has to switch constantly between the server and his computer for Internet research, for example, can't use his own references and so on.


A nice way around it would be the clipboard workflow some CAT tool offer. You can use both your Internet resources, and all your other resources, including previous translations for the same client.

Cheers,

Hans


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jfabre  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 16:10
Member (2013)
German to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
How would you handle any late feedback without having your work on hand to check? Jun 20, 2016

Thanks for your answers so far!

I will definitely talk, again, to my customer and try and make sure they understand where the problems are. I too have the feeling, that the server isn't set up correctly.

I've been working for years with this client and I'm quite happy with the work they send (interesting) and the rates they accept to pay. But I'm not always very happy with their way of handling problems...

In the past, the server issue came up quite rarely and I accepted working on it as a favour to them (good client's bonus). In the last weeks though, the issue came up repeatedly and I've been told that they are switching to working as often as possible with the server.

I've already told them many times that they were issues, but nothing really changed. I'm going to address the issue in writing, in the form of a constructive critic. Who knows? Maybe that will help.

I'm also seriously thinking of raising my rates noticeably for server work. But I'm not ready to drop the client. Not yet.

Back to the legal issue: I really don't know if translators have a right to a copy of their translation's work. And I would really like to have some information on that. But furthermore, I wonder how, for example, I would handle a complaint on such a translation. I wouldn't have any proof of what I have written or of what might have been modified afterwards by somebody else. Any experiences on that?

I feel like I had a little victory this morning. The agency called me and told me that for the last project I had worked on (the very one on the server), their client had forgotten 2 pages. I said ok, but I don't have time to work on the server today: too much other things to do. And guess what? I got the text via email...


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:10
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Copy Jun 20, 2016

jfabre wrote:

.....
Now, I know that I don't own the copyright of the translation. But I was wondering if I have any right to get a copy of my own work? I usually keep (secured) records of my translations for later reference, and in this case, for terminology. ...


This is a very important observation. I often refer back to translations I did a long time ago. They're MINE.

I will never accept to use any online translation tools. They hand over total control to the agency.


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Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 16:10
German to English
copyright and TMs Jun 20, 2016

I see you translate from German. Are you a BDÜ member? If so, there was an MDÜ issue in 2014 (I believe issue 3?? I just had to look back at it a few weeks ago - might be issue 4) that discussed copyright of TMs in detail. In your contract with the agency or -if you don't have a standing contract- in any of your e-mail contact was there mention of what would happen with the TM? If not, then you own it according to German law. You'll have to see whether there's a precedent for it in Sweden (it seems from your profile that that's where you live?) or wherever the company is located, but I think it's worth looking into.

As everyone else has said, though, those conditions sound very restrictive, and unless the pay was excellent I don't think I would continue working for them.


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Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:10
Member
English to French
Added slowness Jun 20, 2016

jfabre wrote:
...That makes the translation work really slow, the translator has to switch constantly between the server and his computer for Internet research, for example, can't use his own references and so on...

Of course, since you sell your time and expertise, as soon as the agency went on-line, they promptly offered you to increase your word rates to offset the time wasted because of their new oh-so-trendy cloud, virtual, collaborative, multi-user-at-once central system.

I wouldn't worry that much about "rights" over your work. The right to charge fairly should be the first right to fight for.

Philippe


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Huw Watkins  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:10
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
I'm not entirely convinced this is true Jun 20, 2016

Tom in London wrote:

jfabre wrote:

.....
Now, I know that I don't own the copyright of the translation. But I was wondering if I have any right to get a copy of my own work? I usually keep (secured) records of my translations for later reference, and in this case, for terminology. ...


This is a very important observation. I often refer back to translations I did a long time ago. They're MINE.




I think this will largely depend on the terms of the contract you sign with the client. It may well be that it specifies that all work done remains the intellectual property of the client. If this is the case then they are essentially buying the work off you, all rights included. In this case, I think you would be justified in charging extra. You often see these clauses in employment contracts for example. I've never studied my contracts with agencies closely enough to see if they include these types of clause however.

This all said, the reality is likely to be more of a grey area and the agency will likely try to have your work without paying extra for the intellectual property rights. They do this by introducing an online environment that severely restricts your ability to gain access to your work once complete, causing untold annoyances in your working method in the process.

If I were in your shoes, I'd be thinking of moving on personally, especially if they won't accept a not insignificant raise in rates for your trouble.

The more we translators say no to these sorts of practice the more difficult it will become for agencies to find good translators and hence may drop the practice altogether.


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Yasutomo Kanazawa  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:10
English to Japanese
+ ...
Can't afford to work in such conditions Jun 20, 2016

I'm not a lawyer, but if you translated the material, then that material should be yours, IMO.

And not having a copy on your PC can lead to trouble. What if your client makes false or groundless accusations about the quality of your work and refuses to pay on those grounds? And if you complain, they could just say that you never worked for them even though you used their server to complete the translation. Isn't that too dangerous?

I would stay away from those kind of clients/agencies, and my answer would be a "No" to those kind of offers.


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Huw Watkins  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:10
Member (2005)
Italian to English
+ ...
This is something that I hadn't thought of actually Jun 20, 2016

Yasutomo Kanazawa wrote:


And not having a copy on your PC can lead to trouble. What if your client makes false or groundless accusations about the quality of your work and refuses to pay on those grounds? And if you complain, they could just say that you never worked for them even though you used their server to complete the translation. Isn't that too dangerous?

I would stay away from those kind of clients/agencies, and my answer would be a "No" to those kind of offers.



Much like Tom also says above, you are surrendering too much control to the agency and the scenario you cite, while probably not very likely with a regular client as the OP describes, is certainly not impossible I suppose.


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Debora Blake  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:10
Member
French to English
+ ...
Intellectual property rights apply to translators Jun 20, 2016

Most copyright/intellectual property rights are fairly universal. However, I suggest you research intellectual property rights for your country. I can speak from personal experience in France and tell you the following:

Generally speaking, when you translate an original document, the original author holds the copyright for his/her work. Once you've translated that original work, you now have your own "original work" for which you hold the copyright.

Having been paid by your client to do the translation, there's an understanding that you are granting him the right to use your work, based on the terms of your agreement. Imagine that you have been translating monthly texts for their online magazine. After a year, you learn that your client is publishing a book and is planning to include your translations.

If your contract stipulated that your translations were to be used in the company's online magazine, then you're entitled to reopen the negotiation, and thus seek compensation, for the use of your work in the new book to be published. You also have the right to be credited as the author of the translation and if your client plans to modify your work, you have the right to refuse that it be modified... because your translation is protected by intellectual property rights which means only you, the author, can decide where and how your work is used and/or modified.

If you discover after the fact that your client published a book containing your translations without your knowledge, then you have grounds to seek a settlement with them because they are infringing your copyright, and if the book is being sold, obtaining monetary gain from your work.

The European Commission has published a good report here:
http://www.termcoord.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/translation_intellectual_property_en.pdf

All that to say, yes, you should be entitled at the very least to have a copy of your translation, unless your client wrote into your agreement that you are forbidden to - which opens a delicate can of worms...


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Texte Style
Local time: 16:10
French to English
keep copies of everything you do Jun 22, 2016

I agree that you need to keep copies of everything you do, if only to protect your reputation should there be quality issues.

I once had a client rant at me because her client laughed at the quality of the English document she was given. Since I had copies of everything I was able to prove that it was in fact her secretary who had just translated a couple of bits here and there, and typed bits herself instead of copying and pasting. Of course most of those bits were short and snappy titles, in large bold type, so they really stuck out.

Right now I'm working on a client interface. Luckily it's really interesting and environmentally useful, being about protected species, otherwise I would never have accepted it. And I'm charging not only for the words I translate but also for the time spent copying the final translation into their interface. I thought I'd be able to breeze through the copying phase with my favourite music blasting, only it's even less translator-friendly than I'd reckoned and will actually take as much time as the actual translation.

I insisted on translating the text in my own software first in order to have copies of my work. There's no guarantee the client won't make changes to what I've put in the interface, and I don't know of any other way of proving exactly what I put.


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 22:10
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Treaty on copyrights Aug 27, 2016

jfabre wrote:

Now, I know that I don't own the copyright of the translation. But I was wondering if I have any right to get a copy of my own work? I usually keep (secured) records of my translations for later reference, and in this case, for terminology. I'm not ready to accept that the research I've done for this job is lost for me (I didn't do a double record for my own system, that would have cost too much time).



Copyright laws of many countries are based on the international treaty on copyrights. They say that freelancers remain the copyright owners even NDA says differently.
Why not check and discuss this issue here?

Soonthon L.


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