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Is it correct to use pre-translated text from the web?
Thread poster: gdesai
gdesai  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:57
German to English
Aug 13, 2008

This is the question I wish to pose to my fellow-translators.
While surfing the net to get information on my present project, I came across a website that has a section of my source text translated into target text.
Am I justified in 'copy-paste' these texts?


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:27
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Yes Aug 13, 2008

If you're happy with that text then yes, of course. The fact that you searched the web for it, found it, evaluated it, and decided to use it, is part of your work.

I assume you may also need to adjust it here and there.

Your conscience is clean !


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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 01:27
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Of course not! Aug 13, 2008

Naturally, you may not use the text without the permission of the author. Even if the translation is in the public domain (not to be confused with "publicly available"!) you have to give proper credits to the author (who might or might not allow you to use it).

Misrepresenting that you are the author is not only unethical, but also illegal in most countries.


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Hepburn  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:27
English to French
+ ...
Tribute or pilferage? Aug 13, 2008

gdesai wrote:

This is the question I wish to pose to my fellow-translators.
While surfing the net to get information on my present project, I came across a website that has a section of my source text translated into target text.
Am I justified in 'copy-paste' these texts?


Such an opportunity is the moment to exercise one's critical judgement and to have the pleasure of coming to the conclusion that one can improve on the text - which is the case in 90% of the cases. I only once could not improve on it and copied/pasted, as a "tribute" to the translator...(so I persuaded myself).

If you deal with press releases, you will see that it is common practice for the last paragraph (Safe harbour).One can then change punctuation, cut a sentence, etc.

There are various ways to avoid shameless pilferage.

[Edited at 2008-08-13 13:19]


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:27
French to English
It depends on the length and type of text - be careful Aug 13, 2008

For example, I have done a few "terms and conditions" projects where I re-used some translations found on the internet. They were very generic, standard legal disclaimers that could be found all over. I probably adapted them a bit to reflect my exact source. Of course I didn't copy whole pages, just a few sentences here and there.

You might also just keep the existing translation you found in mind and use it for inspiration to help with your own, unique translation.


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:27
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
It depends on the context Aug 13, 2008

If I find something already translated that is part of what the client needs (generally, in the legal context, as evidence for something), I simply tell the client, "I found a translation already, here is the link... have a look and see if you can use it as it is and save that part of the translation.....".

Astrid


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:27
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Depends on the licence of the web site Aug 13, 2008

gdesai wrote:
While surfing the net to get information on my present project, I came across a website that has a section of my source text translated into target text. Am I justified in 'copy-paste' these texts?


If the web site's licence makes it okay, then yes, it would be okay. But otherwise, no, it won't be okay... unless you get permission from the copyright holder of that translation.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:27
English to French
+ ...
Copyright Aug 13, 2008

I believe the only argument against using bits of already translated text that is identical to what you translate is when the translation found on the Web is copyright-protected. You need to be extra careful with this - you are solely liable in this case if you infringe, unlike in cases where the source text itself was copyright-protected (in which case it is the client who is liable).

If the translation you found is not protected by copyright, then, as shameless as some people may find this solution, I'd say go ahead and use it and don't worry about your client. After all, you did spend time to find the text, and (I am talking from experience here) often, the text on the Web is formatted in a way that it will take some time to copy it (PDFs with nasty line breaks, Flash content, content that is broken up into little bits that you have to constantly browse to copy completely, etc.).

I think that you deserve to be paid for your time. Of course, you are free to charge less for the portion you copied if it did save you some time.

I also want to add that in some cases, you actually have to use the translation found on the Web. This is the case, for example, with laws and regulations. If an official translation exists, you need to use it, because if not, then the law or regulation in question may be misinterpreted, which can lead to serious consquences (maybe not for you, but your client will not be happy).


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:27
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Some examples? Aug 13, 2008

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:
If the translation you found is not protected by copyright...


Can you give us some examples of when translations would not be protected by copyright?


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 00:27
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Examples Aug 13, 2008

Samuel Murray wrote:
Can you give us some examples of when translations would not be protected by copyright?


Content from public agencies (government) would certainly fall into this category.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:27
English to French
+ ...
Taking the words from my mouth Aug 13, 2008

Kevin, you took the words from my mouth. In my case, I was more specifically thinking of regulatory texts, which fit into the broader category you mention.

I have translated many technical documents, and these typically bring up compliance and legal issues, which invariably come with mentions of regulatory texts. In such cases, not only is it legal to borrow the translation, you have to use the official translation. But I've already explained this previously.

Other than the type of content discussed above, there is also an increasing number of creative commons material, as well as content that belongs to the public domain. I could name off the top of my head at least a dozen famous writers, long gone now, whose work is not protected by any copyright. Good for them - their work has in some cases stood the test of time precisely because there is no copyright on it. To have a more precise idea of these famous writers, philosophers et al, visit www.bartleby.net.

[Edited at 2008-08-13 22:37]


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gdesai  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:57
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all for your thought inputs Aug 14, 2008

I appreciate views expressed on the topic. Legal aspect is indeed a factor that needs to be considered, even if the author is the same on the web as well as in my source text.
Redrafting the text is the best option.

[Edited at 2008-08-14 01:06]


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Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:27
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
temptation Aug 18, 2008

I once received a translation request from a private UK client, someone I used to work closely with but who I always found a bit arrogant.

His request was for me to translate a piece of EU legislation... in other words, a piece of legislation that is freely available on the EU website in several languages, including English.

Given his arrogance towards me in the past, I was sorely sorely tempted to just do a "cut and paste" of the whole document... but my better nature kicked in, I pointed him in the direction of europa.eu and saved him a penny or two!


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
Totally agree with Tom Aug 18, 2008

Tom in London wrote:

If you're happy with that text then yes, of course. The fact that you searched the web for it, found it, evaluated it, and decided to use it, is part of your work.

I assume you may also need to adjust it here and there.

Your conscience is clean !


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
I disagree with JW here Aug 18, 2008

Jabberwock wrote:

Naturally, you may not use the text without the permission of the author. Even if the translation is in the public domain (not to be confused with "publicly available"!) you have to give proper credits to the author (who might or might not allow you to use it).

Misrepresenting that you are the author is not only unethical, but also illegal in most countries.


I beg to differ. I do not consider the translator as the "author" of the text, merely a cypher, and believe it wholly ethical to use all possible means to achieve a good translation, even if this means appropriating text from somewhere in the public domain (internet).

[Edited at 2008-08-18 19:28]


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