Are translation memories protected by copyright laws?
Thread poster: portilla

portilla  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:45
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English to Spanish
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Jan 13, 2005

Who owns a translation memory? If a translation agency provides a TM, can the translator use it freely and pass it on to fellow translators if he/she wants, without breaking the law?

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Cristóbal del Río Faura  Identity Verified
Spain
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No answers at the moment Jan 13, 2005

Hi!

There has been and is a lot of controversy on this, and the lack of jurisprudence does not help. Who owns the TM? The translator, the agency, the end customer? All three are in a position to claim their ownership and may find their way through the laws. The most sensible approach today would be private agreements with clients.

You may find some clues in the following article:

http://transref.org/default.asp?docsrc=/u-articles/TMownership1.asp

Regards,
Cr


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
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TM database ownership Jan 14, 2005

Ricardo Bardo wrote:
Who owns a translation memory? If a translation agency provides a TM, can the translator use it freely and pass it on to fellow translators if he/she wants, without breaking the law?


I may have already dealt with this in the couple of articles in the first section of my language resources web site:
http://www.geocities.com/langresourcesallen/

those article titles are:
ALLEN, Jeffrey. 2000. Legal and Ethical Problems for the Distribution of Language and Terminology Resource Databases. Invited paper presented at the Conference for a Terminology Infrastructure in Europe held at UNESCO, Paris, 13-15 March 2000.
http://dtil.unilat.org/etis/actasTDCnet/allen.htm

ALLEN, Jeffrey. 1999. Language Resources: an Issue of Information Management. Keynote talk on Resources presented at the Conference on Co-operation in the Field of Terminology in Europe sponsored by the European Association For Terminology (EAFT) and the Union Latine. 17-19 May 1999, Palais des Congrès de Paris.


Jeff



[Edited at 2006-01-28 21:53]


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Claudio Chagas
Brazil
Local time: 14:45
English to Portuguese
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Who owns the information? Jan 14, 2005

In my opinion this issue should be treated under the same set of rules/laws governing DRM and DAM (Digital Rights/Assets Management). When a publisher builds a database it belongs to the publisher, and if a third party wants to make use of the information architecture in the database, there's a licence fee or price for the use.

I think that a TM is a type of database where a lot information was input by the translator/agency, and therefore should be protected by copyright and dealt accordingly.


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Heike Behl, Ph.D.  Identity Verified
United States
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NDA Jan 15, 2005

If you signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with that agency (or any direct client, for that matter), passing on one of their TMs - or even a TM you yourself created working on one of their projects - could be considered a breach of this agreement, i.e. illegal.

Even without such an agreement, I'd consider passing on such information to somebody else unethical. You might as well pass around their original documents.


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:45
German to English
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Are translation memories protected by copyright laws? Jan 15, 2005

Heike Behl, Ph.D. wrote:

Even without such an agreement, I'd consider passing on such information to somebody else unethical. You might as well pass around their original documents.


Yup.

Marc


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:45
Member (2011)
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TMs and derivative by-products Jan 29, 2005

Heike Behl, Ph.D. wrote:
Even without such an agreement, I'd consider passing on such information to somebody else unethical. You might as well pass around their original documents.


A key point here is that although translation memories are derivative by-products of the source texts, they are very much too close to the original texts (thus not far enough removed) to be able to rebuild the originals. This is what invokes contract breaching.

Creating glossaries from source texts and annotating them with part-of-speech categories and other comments makes the glossaries that are far removed derivatives from the source and which cannot be used to reconstitute the orginal text.
Such derivative glossaries are owned by the translator. By removing any too specific terminology, it is possible to share them.
Importing such glossaries into any terminology or dictionary management tool then again takes another derivative avenue, and another possibility for claiming copyright ownership on the derivative.

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/


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xxxdesiderata
"ownership" Apr 10, 2005

This is a question that has begun to interest very much recently, but I can't say that I've done my research yet. When we talk of "ownership" we may be talking of several different kinds of property-type rights and protections that may _all at one time_ attach to the TM.

Jeff writes, "A key point here is that although translation memories are derivative by-products of the source texts, they are very much too close to the original texts (thus not far enough removed) to be able to rebuild the originals. This is what invokes contract breaching." Are you saying the crucial point is whether or not the trade secrets of the data source provider can be reconstituted from the translator's TM?

[Edited at 2005-04-11 02:33]

[Edited at 2005-04-11 02:37]


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xxxjmd  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:45
English to Slovenian
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Apples and oranges Oct 15, 2005

[quote]Philip Tomlinson wrote:

>When we talk of "ownership" we may be talking of several different kinds of property-type rights and protections that may _all at one time_ attach to the TM. <

Agreed.

Jeff writes, "A key point here is that although translation memories are derivative by-products of the source texts, they are very much too close to the original texts (thus not far enough removed) to be able to rebuild the originals. This is what invokes contract breaching."

You have mixed up apples and oranges here. Contract breaching is if you pass your TM on to a third party while you are expressly forbidden to do so. (Even without an NDA I would consider this unethical.) An NDA covers this aspect of translation and defines translator's obligations to the client, in addition to the translation contract. Translator's copyright, however, does not depend on either and does not have anything to do with either as a category because it is based on the copyright law. Although derivative by nature, translation IS an intellectual creation and in Europe it is treated as such. Copyright law in the US has not followed the Unesco recommendation from 1976, but the EU has (as have many other countries). A brief look at Latvian copyright law (harmonised with the EU law) shows that translation databases also fall in the category of copyrighted material. I don't have time for a comparative survey of copyright law across different countries, but in the EU at least, despite differences in member countries, the national legislations have been harmonised on the basis of EU directives. If I'm not mistaken, translation of legislative and administrative texts is the only one not covered by the copyright law.

Translators should be encouraged to assert their rights, not be further marginalised to the point where they are led to believe that they should hand over their glossaries and TMs to the client without remuneration, if the latter expresses such a request. A translator should be asked for the permission to *use* his glossary and TM in exchange for fair compensation. Note that even if one does give sign away their right to compensation, under the copyright law he retains a moral right (again, I do not know whether this is the case in the US).

In relation to this, I also have a question or two.

1. Aren't translators' rights to keep their own work breached when agencies demand of them to work with crippled versions of translation software (the so-called "lite" or "satellite" versions that do not allow them to access/export their translation once it is finished) or when they have to work "on line", entering their work directly into the client's translation db without being able to save it to their desktop?

2. Many subtitling companies from the US omit the names of subtitlers at the end of translations - as I've been able to see so far, the only DVDs with foreign subtitles that also carry the names of translators are those provided by only 1 (global) company. In Europe, subtitling is considered a genre of literary translation (covered by copyright law, of course). Aren't American subtitling companies infringing on the rights of European subtitlers by omitting their names, since the DVDs are intended for sale on foreign markets where the US law does not apply?


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