Sample Translations - a concern regarding legality
Thread poster: CatF
CatF
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:45
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Oct 7, 2016

Hello all,

Apologies in advance if my question is very silly. It regards a branch of the translation industry I know very little about:

I have been working as a translator for a good few years now (technical, legal, commercial...) but never in my main interest, which is literary translation. I'm now, at long last, trying to give it a proper go, so I've been documenting myself as much as possible on the literary translation industry. I've made some preliminary contacts with publishers, checking their interest in a freelancer for translation samples (seemed more realistic than immediately offering to translate the latest hit); those who replied (which I understand is a victory in itself) asked, quite reasonably, for a translation sample.

My rather basic question is:

At this introductory stage (providing a sample so the publisher can check the translator's style), is there a legal expectation that this sample will have been pre-agreed with the author of the original? Or is there a tacit understanding that such a sample exists for portfolio reasons only, and no need to pursue copyright?

I will do whatever the law demands, of course; I just don't want to go through the hassle of clearing lots of legalities for no reason; conversely, I don't want to instantly burn bridges, to say the least, by breaking the law first thing.

This is not something I've ever had to deal with in my usual area, so I find myself quite out of my depth.

Thank you in advance to anyone who can advise or point me in the right direction.


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Phyllis Elago  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 07:45
French to English
+ ...
Join the Emerging Translators Network Oct 9, 2016

If you are new to literary translation, I would highly recommend joining the Emerging Translators Network. It is specifically for translators who want to learn about breaking into literary translation and has some very experienced members.

https://emergingtranslatorsnetwork.wordpress.com/

It is a closed group and you have to send a request to be able to join, but this is very simple to do. I'm sure you can get good responses to your question there.


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Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Germany
Local time: 07:45
Member (2016)
English to German
How about translating a PD text? Oct 10, 2016

I think you should simply use a source text that is in the public domain. For example, use a literary text by an author who died more than 70 years ago, that should mean that there is no copyright any longer on their works (check your local copyright laws). That way, you are on the safe side regarding copyright.

I think it would be a bad idea to simply use a copyrighted text without having an agreement with the author beforehand. This might be legal for purely private purposes, but as soon as you distribute your translation (even if only as samples of your work), you could get in trouble.


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CatF
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:45
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you both Oct 20, 2016

Thank you both for the very sound and helpful advice. Much appreciated.

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Eric S.
Taiwan
Local time: 13:45
Chinese to English
I may be mistaken, but Oct 29, 2016

I was always under the impression that you could transfer any copyrighted work, such as a novel, etc. that you want without the author's permission, and that you need only get the author's (or publisher, or whoever owns the copyright)'s permission if you are planning on selling the translation in some way.

Have I been wrong all this time?


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Artem Vakhitov  Identity Verified
Estonia
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
Search for content under a Creative Commons license Oct 29, 2016

I'm a technical translator, so my case is a bit different, but recently, when I decided to add sample translations to my profile, I simply entered this in Google search:

my desired topic "creative commons"

This gave me enough links to content distributed under one of Creative Commons type licenses (mostly Attribution). These licenses are very permissive and allow you to use the content on easy conditions (for example, that you attribute the source properly).

(Edited because ProZ didn't recognize some formatting.)

[Edited at 2016-10-29 12:45 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 01:45
Member (2008)
French to English
Copyright = right to copy Oct 29, 2016

Shihaoheng wrote:

I was always under the impression that you could transfer any copyrighted work, such as a novel, etc. that you want without the author's permission, and that you need only get the author's (or publisher, or whoever owns the copyright)'s permission if you are planning on selling the translation in some way.

Have I been wrong all this time?


According to Wikipedia, "Copyright is a legal right created by the law of a country that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution."

It doesn't refer to selling strictly.

There are exceptions, such as fair use of a small portion of a work, reporting of news, etc., which differ from one county to another, but fundamentally the original author has the right to control the use of a work.


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