Impede the use of an unpaid translation by the agency's client.
Thread poster: Manuel Gordillo

Manuel Gordillo
Mexico
Local time: 04:23
English to Spanish
+ ...
Apr 26, 2013

I finished a manual translation for an agency in England that would not pay. Can I legally impede the use or distribution of my translation by the agency's client?

Can anyone shed some light on this matter.

I would appreciate any info.

Best regards.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:23
English to Polish
+ ...
Well... Apr 26, 2013

I can't give you legal advice appropriate for your specific country and legal system but in the typical situation as a freelancer you would probably retain copyrights unless you specifically assigned them to the agency, which is likely (but not guaranteed) to require writing to be valid.

Your contract with the agency may have a clause that copyrights get transferred automatically, in which case you're cooked unless there is some specific legislation designed for that type of situation (or the courts have come up with something). If not, then you would most likely be considered to have granted an implied licence for use but not a full transfer, enabling you to take back the licence.

However, please note that it could be dangerous for you to forbid the agency's client from using the translation. The consequences are hard to predict and with a bunch of lawyers against you, all of them trying to prove damage in all sorts of nefarious ways, they could throw a whole tun of mud on you in the hope that some of it would stick. And that something could be a single freaking competition tort or reliance damage or even a fancy breach of contract.

Taking hostile steps, even if they actually work (that meaning you're successful in forbidding that us), can have a huge backlash in the form of a megaclaim for consequential, inconsenquential, potential, barely potential and downright bogus damages.

Therefore I'd get a lawyer or get in touch with a copyright holder association.


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Manuel Gordillo
Mexico
Local time: 04:23
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Apr 26, 2013

Hello,

I appreciate you comment. I was very enlightning.

Manuel.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:23
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You can suggest they may be on dodgy ground Apr 27, 2013

I believe that in commercial translation (i.e. not literary), and in a lot of countries in the world, a translator is deemed to hold the copyright only until payment is received; then it automatically transfers to our client, who in turn transfers it to the end client in the case of an agency client. But I'm no lawyer and I don't suppose there are any 100% international agreements. You'd need to take advice from a specialist to be sure.

Whatever the law, I did once go as far as ringing the owner of a tourism website, an end-client who I only knew through searching the internet for the content of my translation. After 2 months of silence in response to payment reminders, the agency claimed that payment wasn't possible because they hadn't received payment themselves. (I reminded them that that had absolutely nothing to do with our contract, of course!) In the end, at invoice date + 3 months, and after 2 officially-worded final demands (yes, 2!) I gave them 7 days' notice prior to (a) starting proceedings against the website owner for copyright infringement, and (b) initiating a European Payment Order claim. At the end of that period, I carried out both actions, although (a) started with a rather cheaper and simpler phone call. I didn't forbid the owner to use the translation. I simply remarked that as I hadn't been paid, there was some doubt over the legality of its use, which he might like to discuss with the agency. I received an extremely vitriolic email from the agency the next day, accusing me of blackmail and totally unprofessional behaviour etc, etc, and the money was in my account just a few days later.

It isn't something I'm anxious to repeat as it IS highly unprofessional to contact an end-client. But what can you do when faced with a totally unprofessional client? At the end of the day, we have to do everything we can to be paid, and it was clear to me from this episode that some agencies simply don't take any heed of our demands.

Good luck and let us know what happens!


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:23
English to Polish
+ ...
Yup Apr 27, 2013

It isn't something I'm anxious to repeat as it IS highly unprofessional to contact an end-client. But what can you do when faced with a totally unprofessional client? At the end of the day, we have to do everything we can to be paid, and it was clear to me from this episode that some agencies simply don't take any heed of our demands.


Forgot to add that and yes, even if you're right on the copyright angle, you could still face some trouble over contacting an end client directly if it's contrary to your contract and/or your country has some detailed competition laws in its business law system.

Also, remember never to threaten a late debtor with retribution other than simply mentioning steps you'd take under the normal debt collection procedure and in order to get that debt. Unless you've run it through a good criminal lawyer, don't use legal arguments or possible bad legal consequences as an argument when you want someone to pay up or it can be interpreted as blackmail even if the guy actually owes you everything you claim and even if you're legally entitled to do whatever you'd threaten him with doing. This is something easy to forget for desperate non-lawyers facing a non-payer.


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Manuel Gordillo
Mexico
Local time: 04:23
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Outcome Apr 27, 2013

Thank you both of your insights, I greatly appreciate the two of you sharing your experiences with me and the rest of the public. I will make sure to share the outcome of my affair with the community. Scammers like this deserve not tolerance. This information is highly educational, My perspective was was not as far from yours on how to handle this affair, unfortnately, I cannot discuss in a more detailed manner how I will handle this in a near future. I will have to take a chance at some point in this matter.

Thanks you both.


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:23
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Take a look at this discussion, too Apr 27, 2013

http://www.proz.com/forum/money_matters/246658-late_payments_from_trustworthy_agency.html

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Shankaran Viswanathan  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 15:53
French to English
+ ...
Berne convention Apr 28, 2013

I believe there is a Berne Convention on such matters relating to copyright. I hope someone can provide more details.

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