No copyright ownership of medical translations?
Thread poster: Peter Leeflang

Peter Leeflang  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:39
Member (2014)
French to English
+ ...
Sep 24, 2014

I'm rather new in dealing with the copyright ownership issue of medical translations.

With direct private and corporate I make sure to include in the contract that copyright only transfers upon receipt of full payment. That way I make clear that the customer can only use my work once he has paid the bill.

Now, for the first time, I encounter a translation agency that is interested in working with me on medical translations, but it claims in its contract that the translator does not own the copyright of the translation.

There is no phrase saying anything about remuneration being a requirement for getting the copyright of my translation work.

Just to be clear, I do not claim copyright over the creative aspects of the medical document, but I want to claim copyright over the work to translate that. Is that unreasonable in this field?

The translation agency also claimed that most translations would be for internal use only, mainly clinical trials documents (contradicted by them also looking for medical translators for medical reports and ethics committee correspondence), while it is known that this is not how it works with clinical trials. The clinical trial articles often get translated in multiple languages and those translations get sold per article at hefty prices.

So my question is if the non-ownership approach that this agency has, is normal and generally accepted.


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philgoddard
United States
German to English
+ ...
You own the copyright to your translation. Sep 24, 2014

You can assign it to them by mutual agreement if you wish - but I wonder whether you're making a mountain out of a molehill. In my opinion, provided you get paid, it doesn't matter what they do with your translation or how much money they make out of it.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:39
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Perhaps... Sep 24, 2014

Peter Leeflang wrote:
Now, for the first time, I encounter a translation agency that is interested in working with me on medical translations, but it claims in its contract that the translator does not own the copyright of the translation.


Perhaps they mean "the translator agrees to assign the copyright" and not "the translator has no copyright".

So my question is if the non-ownership approach that this agency has, is normal and generally accepted.


I think it is generally accepted and does occur in various guises, but I think the intention of the clause is that the translator assigns the copyright to the client at the time of delivery. It is generally assumed that the client will pay for the translation, too. However, there is often a lag of a month to three months between delivery and payment, and the client may wish to use the translation immediately after delivery. How would you normally solve that?


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:39
German to English
two possibilities Sep 25, 2014

In the US, there are "works-for-hire agreements", I don't know exactly how it works, but if both parties agree in writing in advance, then the client becomes the author (original copyright holder) of the text. In other countries, this situation is only possible in cases involving employees, but in the US it can be used in agreements between freelancers and clients.

The question of whether or not a given medical text enjoys copyright at all is a question of national law. In Germany, at least, many texts of this kind are not sufficiently creative (i.e. of an inadequate "Schöpfungshöhe") to meet the minimum requirements for attaining copyright. The customer cannot use them without paying for them (because there is a contract stating that you will provide him with a translation and he will provide you with payment), but this has nothing to do with copyright.


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