Translating an unaware resource without permission
Thread poster: Toby Walters

Toby Walters
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:46
Japanese to English

Posted via Mobile

Apr 4

Hello fellow translators,

I was wondering if anybody could shed some light on the rules surrounding translation of third-party resources for reference in an original work.

I’m currently undertaking a translation masters and for my final project I need to find and translate something that doesn’t already have an English translation published. I’ve contacted a Localisation startup who said they’d like me to translate an online Japanese article on business etiquette into English so that they can use it as a resource/cited reference in producing their own English-language content on the same subject.

Does anybody know if this is okay from a legal point of view? Would we need permission from the original author? I’ve looked online but I can’t really find anything helpful on the matter.

The deadline for choosing my texts is fast approaching, so if anybody has any answers, I’d really appreciate it!



Tina Vonhof
Local time: 07:46
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
You are wise to be careful Apr 4

If you can, I would contact the author of the original authors and/or the owner of the website where the article appears. If permission is required, it is actually up to the localization company to take care of it. Make it a condition for undertaking the job.

Meanwhile, just in case this does not work out, start looking for other possibilities. My guess is that has to be lots of material that has not been published in English yet. Don't put all your eggs in this one basket when your deadline is looming.

[Edited at 2018-04-04 15:02 GMT]


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:46
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Toby Apr 4

Toby Walters wrote:
I’ve contacted a [client] who said they’d like me to translate an online ... article ... into English so that they can use it as a resource/cited reference in producing their own English-language content on the same subject.
Does anybody know if this is okay from a legal point of view? Would we need permission from the original author?

1. It is the client's responsibility to ensure that he has the right to commission the translation. The translator can helpfully point out if it appears as if the client may not have the right, and the translator may refuse to do the translation if he believes that the client doesn't have the right, but ultimately the client is the one who must find out whether or not he has the right to get the translation done.

2. Generally, you (the translator) are allowed to translate anything, even without the author's or copyright holder's permission. What you are not allowed, however, is to *publish* (or distribute) the translation without their permission. Delivering a translation to a paying client is not publishing or distributing, in this sense.

3. It seems a bit silly to translate an entire article, if the client merely wants to cite from it. It would make more sense to translate only the citations. But if the client has money to burn, why not.

4. Perhaps the client does not intend to cite from the article but to use it as a template. In that case, if you have a reasonable suspicion that the client intends to commit plagiarism using your translation (and not re-use the content in a fair usage manner), then (depending on the code of ethics of your local translation association) you might have to refuse to do the translation. If the client intends to use the translation as a template, and the way he uses it is not considered fair usage in his jurisdiction, then yes, then you'd need permission from the original article's author.


Frances Nichol  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:46
Member (2016)
Chinese to English
You're allowed to translate whatever you like Apr 4

As far as I am aware, once it's out there in the public domain, you can translate it for your own uses. As said above, I wouldn't publish/distribute it and try to make money out of it. Since it will only be read by your masters supervisor, it sounds like you won't be doing that.

In this instance, I don't understand why the company wants to translate it if only to cite it. It doesn't need to be translated in that instance. They shouldn't translate and publish it without permission, but they could translate for their own uses.

See here:

Also, I am sure you can ask your supervisor for advice on the legal issues involved.

TL:DR translate whatever you like for education purposes, but don't publish it online.


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