Citation of author and translator (me) not made; what to do
Thread poster: Gratia S

Gratia S
Local time: 13:55
German to English
Jan 9, 2009

Hi.

I'm currently contracted in Germany (and hope to be fully employed in four or five months following expiration of the contract and resolution of pending visa issues). After I spent about three full workdays translating a work into English, I have good reason to believe one of my superiors compiled excerpts of the work and used them as her own without citing the original author or me, the translator. She believes the work is now hers and that she does not need to credit me, either within the introduction of the text or within an attached bibliography. The work was sent up the "chain of command" as hers.

Is it true that she does not need to cite me? If so, what arguments can I use to persuade her to include my name as translator?

There is a lot of passive fear involved; my superior's job is to produce such texts, and she does not want to look bad to her superior. The person who showed me the text sans my name (although I specifically did put my name at the bottom when originally translating the work - it was an interesting piece and I was proud of my work!) does not want me to tell anyone that she showed me the work altered to eliminate my name and the author's name, because she feels she may be in trouble then.

Everyone in general involved in the situation seems to fear there is a difference between compilation with citation and doing original work.

Another facet: I love doing work for this superior, because it is one of the most interesting parts of the job. I don't want her to stop asking me to do stuff for her...however, there seems to be a dynamic in the office of having to fight for certain things that seem basic, so I don't know if fighting for my rights in this situation would effect such a consequence anyway.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

[Edited at 2009-01-11 17:00 GMT]


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xxxPeter Manda
Local time: 07:55
German to English
+ ...
if you love working .. Jan 11, 2009

I feel like Dear Abby writing this:

If you love working for this superior because the work is interesting, then you have to deal with the superior's penchant. If your visa is contingent on the pleasure of the employer, then you have to put up with the employer. In many ways your situation is that of indentured servitude. Of course, you could exercise your rights under the law - but what are your benefits of doing so? What is the purpose, other than having your name on a certain work product? In the company, everyone knows that the supervisor controls the flow of product and puts it together. So, your work product is included.

You have to ask yourself what your objective is: visa vs. recognition? etc.


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Annett Hieber  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:55
English to German
Put up with it for the time being...... Jan 11, 2009

Dear Gratia,

I can fully understand the difficult situation you are in - you are really stuck between a rock and a hard place at the moment! On the one hand you are proud of the good work you did and you know that you have the right to be mentioned, on the other hand you want your visa granted and continue to work for the superior in question. Why do you not just go on for a while without complaining, obtain your visa, strengthen your position at work by producing quality translations and being reliable and then, some time later when you are settled you can start a matter-of-fact discussion, addressing the problem in general?

That's how I would handle the situation. Because I don't think it's worth risking so much at that moment - only to have your name mentioned.


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Gratia S
Local time: 13:55
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Actually, the visa is not contingent on the job. Jan 11, 2009

I am really doing the job because I love it. I will be getting my visa anyway in April and I say "I hope to be fully employed then" because right now is a sort of trial period for both the employer and for me to decide whether we can continue with the situation.

It just shocks me that my superior would be willing to do something so risky as plagiarize (after hearing all my life that if you plagiarize, you will flunk, get fired, lose face, etc.). And of course it affects me as well as the translator, with moral (not to mention legal) rights as an author; and she is not interested in granting me that consideration. (From her point of view, her superior is also requiring her to produce the texts - a basic part of her job. I see as one possible solution persuading her superior that compiling other people's texts with citation is as good as producing "original work," which her superior seems to think does not include citations, though of course original work usually does involve citation.)

On the other hand, I do really love the job.

[Edited at 2009-01-11 18:31 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-01-11 19:13 GMT]


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:55
English to Arabic
+ ...
Clarification Jan 11, 2009

Dear Gratia,

I'm not an expert on these issues, but I feel that some details are missing here, for us to give you informed advice. What was the nature of that "work" you were doing? Who gave you the text and asked you to translate it, and did they mention the purpose? Is your superior a translator as well or in what way did she "use" your translation? Is it a translation company you're working for or e.g something like a magazine where your superior is a journalist who used your translation?

I can think of a lot of cases where a translator does not have the right to have his/her name put on the translation (in fact, I don't think my name has remained on 99% of the translations I've done, whether as a freelancer or inhouse translator). But I think it would help if we had more information.


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Gratia S
Local time: 13:55
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Good points. Jan 11, 2009

Peter Manda wrote:

I feel like Dear Abby writing this:

If you love working for this superior because the work is interesting, then you have to deal with the superior's penchant. If your visa is contingent on the pleasure of the employer, then you have to put up with the employer. In many ways your situation is that of indentured servitude. Of course, you could exercise your rights under the law - but what are your benefits of doing so? What is the purpose, other than having your name on a certain work product? In the company, everyone knows that the supervisor controls the flow of product and puts it together. So, your work product is included.

You have to ask yourself what your objective is: visa vs. recognition? etc.


Dear Peter "Abby" Manda,
Thanks for your input; I can see what you mean that "everyone knows that the supervisor controls the flow of product and puts it together." I am quite sure my style is different enough from my superior's that it is clear I helped to a very large extent with the project. Somehow, it is about a sort of basic respect across the board (not feeling used, knowing she works to create win-win situations for her employees) more than about recognition, plus an idealistic sort of academic shock at blatant plagiarism ("but that's not fair!").

I also appreciate your point that I should clarify my objective. I feel it is something like choosing between feeling used and keeping the job I love - somehow, it is not quite so easy at this point to feel so warm and fuzzy toward the "people aspect" of the job in rooting for the latter...

[Edited at 2009-01-15 19:59 GMT]


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Gratia S
Local time: 13:55
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
The nature of the work Jan 11, 2009

Nesrin wrote:

Dear Gratia,

I'm not an expert on these issues, but I feel that some details are missing here, for us to give you informed advice. What was the nature of that "work" you were doing? Who gave you the text and asked you to translate it, and did they mention the purpose? Is your superior a translator as well or in what way did she "use" your translation? Is it a translation company you're working for or e.g something like a magazine where your superior is a journalist who used your translation?

I can think of a lot of cases where a translator does not have the right to have his/her name put on the translation (in fact, I don't think my name has remained on 99% of the translations I've done, whether as a freelancer or inhouse translator). But I think it would help if we had more information.


I don't quite feel comfortable mentioning the nature of the business relationship, but the client is not a translation agency. My superior might be described as something like a journalist/magazine in that her work is high-profile, and the work I translated, from which she compiled excerpts, was written by another high-profile person, though her text will probably never see high circulation (perhaps not even beyond my workplace, where it is most likely already clear I played a large role).

I don't know how much more I feel comfortable saying at this point. It would be easy enough to search my name and find this post. But I would appreciate feedback all the same.


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:55
English to Arabic
+ ...
If I understand the situation correctly Jan 11, 2009

Gratia S wrote:

the client is not a translation agency. My superior might be described as something like a journalist/magazine in that her work is high-profile, and the work I translated, from which she compiled excerpts, was written by another high-profile person


... (and I appreciate of course that you can't give us more details), but the way I see it is that I'd find it unusual for your name to appear on the publication at this stage. Your superior will have acknowledged your work within your workplace, and I'm sure you're paid for it one way or another, but it now belongs to her, and she can do with it what she pleases. If I read an article which quotes a Japanese article, for example, I would never expect to read the name of the translator of that particular quote.

Again that's my understanding, and I may be missing something.


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 13:55
English to Croatian
+ ...
My humble opinion Jan 11, 2009

As far as I'm aware, if it is a high-profile work ( article, book, publication, etc), they are definitely obliged to mention translator's name on the first pages, commonly above the publisher's name or alike.

However, you should have also signed a contract or an NDA that neatly explains and covers these parameters.


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Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:55
English to Arabic
+ ...
Yes, but... Jan 11, 2009

Lingua 5B wrote:

As far as I'm aware, if it is a high-profile work ( article, book, publication, etc), they are definitely obliged to mention translator's name on the first pages, commonly above the publisher's name or


as Gratia said in her original message, her superior's work contained "excerpts of the work", i.e. it's not a case where the entire article is the translation prepared by Gratia. I think it would be nice of the superior to credit her in an introduction or similar, but I wouldn't say it's an obligation and it's certainly no case of plagiarism, IMO.

=====

Added note after reading Katalin's posting: All I'm talking about above is whether or not the translator needs to be credited. Obviously, the original author needs to be credited, and if they aren't, it is indeed a case of plagiarism.

[Edited at 2009-01-12 09:16 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:55
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
So she used another person's text (after translation) as her own? Jan 11, 2009

Gratia S wrote:

After I spent about three full workdays translating a work into English, I have good reason to believe one of my superiors compiled excerpts of the work and used them as her own without citing the original author or me, the translator. She believes the work is now hers


So, if I understand correctly, your boss asked you to translate a text that somebody else (perhaps another big gun at a competitor), wrote, and then used parts of it as if she wrote it?
No quotation marks, no footnote, no credits whatsoever...
Nicccccceee...

If she did that with a text originally written in English, the plagiarism would be obvious. This way, as there is another layer in between (the translation), it is hard to notice and/or prove the same, unless somebody knows both languages and happened to read the original.

I am not an expert in copyrights, but I think if a text is protected by copyright, then all derivative works are protected as well, including translations, so translations could not be published without the permission of the original copyright holder.

The situation seems quite gray to me, both legally and ethically.

What you need to decide whether you are comfortable working in this environment (you clearly expressed some frustration over the issue here). If you are not, you can do a few things: first, raise the issue with your boss, and see what her side of the story is. After that, you can decide again whether the explanation would change your feelings, or whether you have a chance to change the way things are done. Based on that, you may come to the conclusion that you would not want to work there at all.
Since you are just a contractor now, you can look at it as a great opportunity to find out these things before you completely sell your soul.


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xxxPeter Manda
Local time: 07:55
German to English
+ ...
I don't see it ... Jan 11, 2009

You're starting out in a new business, you are beginning your work in a specific area, and you are learning on the job. My assessment would be that rather than fighting this, you should learn from what your supervisor is doing: Which paragraphs are being copied and why, which portions of the translation are begin included and how; what corrections are being made. Etc. Only by observing this as a learning tool can I see you getting ahead.

I also think (putting my Dear Abby hat on again) that you may want to sit down and make a searching internal inventory of your emotions: Why are you reacting this way? What triggered it? Was there something specific that day, or is there something that goes back a long way that makes you respond this way? Our minds form cobwebs of control over the years which result in emotions we find hard to control.

This in any event works for me when I feel slighted or cornered. I have to understand where my boundaries are and why I'm placing them there.

Are you sure you want to work for this employer?


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Rod Walters  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 20:55
Japanese to English
Document it Jan 12, 2009

Given your concerns, it would probably be a good idea to keep a careful record and portfolio of all the things you've translated, with dates, with a backup somewhere.

At the same time, you could work on a letter to your superior documenting your concerns in the most diplomatic and forward-looking way you can manage, and consider handing the letter to her at some point. This will help you to focus on what's important to you, and you're not committed to anything until you actually hand over the letter. And if you've written the letter well, hopefully it won't then be equivalent to burning your boats anyway. The letter could take the form of a proposal rather than a letter. If what you propose really is win-win, there should be no major objections to it.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
Take your time, accept that life's not fair, and hatch a plan:-) Jan 13, 2009

Gratia S wrote:

Somehow, it is about a sort of basic respect across the board (not feeling used, knowing she works to create win-win situations for her employees) more than about recognition, plus an idealistic sort of academic shock at blatant plagiarism ("but that's not fair!").



I think you have to accept that that's her way of behaving, and that even if you don't agree or feel it's unfair or wrong, you have to accept that there are people who don't behave correctly or the way you'd like them to.

There's a film about this kind of situation: Working Girl (1988)

"Assigned as secretary to Petty Marsh executive Katharine Parker, Tess is encouraged to share any good ideas. Tess suggests that Trask Industries, one of the firm's clients, invest in radio instead of television, where it can gain more of a foothold on the market. ... However, when Parker breaks her leg on a skiing trip in Europe, she asks Tess to house-sit for her. While at Katharine's place, Tess accidentally finds evidence that Katharine was planning to steal Tess's idea. ... Disillusioned with Katharine ..., she returns to Katharine's apartment and begins to hatch her own plan."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_Girl

You might just have to get clever and figure out a way to outmanoeuvre her, as Melanie Griffith did to Sig Weaver:-)


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Citation of author and translator (me) not made; what to do

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