Questions about the "ownership" of translations.
Thread poster: Laurene
Jul 13, 2009

Hello everyone,

New to the site and wanted to throw some general questions out there about the "ownership"--for lack of a better word--of translated material. (Apologies if this has been asked and answered. I couldn't find anything specifically about this topic. If this topic has been covered, please feel free to just get me pointed in the right direction via a link or three.)

OK, long story short, I'm considering having some online news articles translated into a few target languages, which will ultimately be published on my web site. First question: Would I need permission from the source publisher to post a translation of their original material? Let's say I wanted to have an article from the Wall Street Journal translated into German, for example. Would I need to have the WSJ's permission to post said translation of their original article? Don't get me wrong, I have no problem mentioning the original source, just not sure if I need their permission to post a translation of it. That's the first issue.

The next issue is how to properly credit the source? Would a simple link to the original article suffice? Then, I'm not sure of the proper wording that should be used in crediting the source article. Open to suggestions there.

I would also be very much interested in your respective opinions about whether I should incorporate both source and target languages within the same document. Would this be against any rules, whether written or unwritten? For instance, in keeping with the above WSJ scenario, would you recommend I include the source English text within the same document as the target German text? Any copyright issues jump out at anyone with any of this so far?

Then there is the issue of the "ownership" of translated works. Let's say I have a freelancer translate some articles for the web site. Do those translations then technically "belong" to the web site? Meaning, would I be able to list the translations as being produced by the web site, not the individual freelancer? Would a contract need to be signed, whereby the freelance translator authorized me/the web site to do this? Just trying to highlight the idea that the web site is responsible for producing/procuring this exclusive content. Would you, as a freelance translator, be offended if you were not given credit for a translation, rather the web site, in this case, be given credit? Or is it pretty standard practice that the paying client pretty much owns the translated material and may do with it whatever she sees fit?

Thanks for making it this far through the post, and many thanks for any input you might have.

Laurene

P.S. If anyone knows of any sites that are currently doing what I'm proposing, I'd be much obliged if you would provide a link. Thanks, again.


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 14:57
Spanish to English
I'm not a lawyer but Jul 14, 2009

I do think you would have to get in touch with owners of the original article and ask for their permission to translate the work and you could, at the same time, ask them how they prefer to be credited.

As for translations, IMHO, if you pay for the translation its copyright passes to you. Of course that does not mean you can claim it as your own work, but I don't think there is any need to credit the translator on the website, in fact I have never seen that done on commercial sites.

As I say this is not legal advice just common sense.

Good luck


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Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Completely agree with Leslie Jul 14, 2009

Just common sense: Better contact the author and ask for permission. I have translated once an article which I liked and would be published for free on a blog, and I still preferred to ask the author, which was really happy to give me the permission to do so.

As for websites contents in general, as far as I know, and if not differently and expressly stated, they belong to their author.


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 22:57
Turkish to English
+ ...
I have been doing this for several years Jul 14, 2009

I have been doing the kind of thing you describe at my website for several years:

http://www.timdrayton.com/a.html

I would say go ahead and do it, and do not worry too much. If you are just posting the translations for the purpose of:

1- providing a resource for the benefit of the general Internet community, and
2- to demonstrate your/your team's translating ability

I do not think anybody is going to be too worried, provided you are not actually charging for access to the translations or gaining a direct financial benefit from them, and as long as you do not translate from one particular author or source too frequently.

As a matter of courtesy, whenever I can find the relevant contact details I always try to e-mail the author and let him/her know that I have translated his/her article and posted it on my website. When I have done this, I have always received a very warm and positive reply. Writers in a language like Turkish which is not widely known as a foreign language can easily see that having a sample of their work translated into English will make their work available to a much wider audience.

I was once called by a Turkish academic whose article I translated and posted on my website and he said he would like to meet me in person while he was on a visit to the Univeristy of Cyprus. When I met him, he shook me warmly by the hand and thanked me, informing me that he passed on the URL of my translation to many of his foreign colleagues whom he felt would be interested in the article and could not read the original beacuse they did not read Turkish.

Of course, you should clearly acknowledge that your work is a translation and credit the author and source.

As far as I know, if anybody objects to your posting such a translation, their first course of action would be to send you a cease and desist notice. I would simply immediately comply with such a notice if received, and this should be enough to avoid further legal action. I have only once received such a notice - and this was not from the author of original publication, but from a businessman whom the article suggested was involved in corrupt practices - and I immediately took down the article upon receipt of such notice. Quite frankly, in the case of a website such as my own that recieves about 30 visitors a day, I do not think that people care too much.

I would say go ahead and do it. It is the online equivalent of sticking an extra knapkin in your pocket while dining at a restaurant to use later at home. In a strict technical sense you are committing theft - but it is too small for anybody to care about.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 21:57
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I'm not a lawyer but Jul 14, 2009

Laurene wrote:
Would I need permission from the source publisher to post a translation of their original material?


Usually, yes.

Let's say I wanted to have an article from the Wall Street Journal translated into German, for example.


This depends on the copyright law of your own country. In my country, news items aren't copyrighted, but it has to be hard news (not opinion pieces or investigative journalism).

The next issue is how to properly credit the source? Would a simple link to the original article suffice? Then, I'm not sure of the proper wording that should be used in crediting the source article. Open to suggestions there.


It must be reasonably unambiguous. I'm often surprised that books credit authors only by giving the name of the author, even though there may be many people with that name. It is usually impossible to get hold of the author of a book based solely on the way he is credited.

That said, news web sites often have specified ways in which they prefer to be credited. It'll be listed somewhere on the web site.

Let's say I have a freelancer translate some articles for the web site. Do those translations then technically "belong" to the web site? Meaning, would I be able to list the translations as being produced by the web site, not the individual freelancer?


It depends on the laws of your country. In my country, the freelancer is the copyright holder but the web site has an [usually unlimited] licence to use the content.

I have translated some books before, and in all cases, the name of the translation company (and not my name) was written on the title page as the translator. I'm not exactly happy with that, but it seems to be standard practice.

Would a contract need to be signed, whereby the freelance translator authorized me/the web site to do this?


In my opinion, the translator grants the client a licence to use the translation in the way that the client had originally intended to use the translation. This is my opinion. Ideally the client should tell the translator how he intends to use the translation, so that the translator has the opportunity to specify special exclusions.


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Mykhailo Voloshko  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 22:57
Member (2008)
English to Russian
+ ...
freelancer's before paid Jul 14, 2009

I heard translation belongs to the freelancer before they are paid for it.

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