Ownership of translations
Thread poster: NR_Stedman
NR_Stedman  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:40
French to English
Jun 13, 2012

This topic has no doubt been discussed before but I haven't seen anything recently on ProZ about it.

Does a translator own his/her translation? I am very often asked to translate the same article or regulatory text for different agencies/companies. This happens a lot for instance with articles reporting drug side effects which are translated independently for different companies or for important regulatory texts that are translated several times for different countries and companies. If there is any risk that the two documents will be seen by the same person I tell my clients that I have already translated the text for someone else. However I recently accepted to translate an article and didn't realise I had already done it until a day before deadline because of many small differences and a completely different presentation. What I would like to know is am I entitled to use my translation twice for two different clients or does the client own my first translation? In this particular case my second translation is going to be published where it will no doubt be seen by everyone in the field. PS: I did tell my second client that I had already translated large parts of the article but only after returning the translation!


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xxxchristela
Once it is paid, you don't own it anymore Jun 13, 2012

And you don't have the right to re-use it or to sell it to someone else. Even if you want to use it in a portfolio, you'll have to ask the client's permission.
But why didn't you make some modifications in the text, changing alternatives or word order for instance, and without explaining this to your client?


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:40
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Let's not shoot ourselves in the foot Jun 13, 2012

christela wrote:

And you don't have the right to re-use it or to sell it to someone else. Even if you want to use it in a portfolio, you'll have to ask the client's permission.
But why didn't you make some modifications in the text, changing alternatives or word order for instance, and without explaining this to your client?


Apart from the observation that the client's permission is needed to use it in a portfolio, I seriously disagree with this.

You are perfectly free to accept any assignment for client #2, whatever job you completed for client #1.

Client #1 paid for your translation - so they can use it in any way specified in your agreement with them. But your brain remains yours, and you are free to use it to translate any text after that. And if you stumble upon a similar or even identical text, you are, of course, perfectly free to take that assignment, and translate it the way you see most fit. Unless you signed an agreement that specifically forbids this - which would either be a no-brainer, or should have a hefty price tag, as you would unreasonably limit the scope of your services.

Confidentiality also means that you should not give away any business information related to client #1 - e.g., that they required the translation of such-and-such text. It is strictly none of client #2's business.

Best,
Attila


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NR_Stedman  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:40
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your comments Jun 14, 2012

Attila: there is no confidentiality issue here as no names were mentioned.
Christela: the new text was slightly different but I am interested in this matter as a question of principle. Also does this hardline approach apply to sections/paragraphs or even segments in your translation memory that you have been paid to transate by one agency and which come up in another job? Where is the line drawn?

What do other translation agency contracts say about ownership? I would be very interested to hear of from any scientific translators who have had problems about the ownership of their work.


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Roy OConnor
Local time: 22:40
Member (2009)
German to English
Standardising could be desirable Jun 14, 2012

I can imagine the same sort of text crops up time and again, say in medication instructions. A certain standardisation of text may be unavoidable and even desirable. In another field the EU have certain approved safety texts for hazardous materials such as paints. Translators are expected to use these texts.

After all there are only a certain number of ways of saying the same thing, so I wouldn't worry too much.

Roy


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:40
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Difficult... difficult... Jun 14, 2012

christela wrote:
Once it is paid, you don't own it anymore. And you don't have the right to re-use it or to sell it to someone else.


I think the best way to deal with this Stedman's query is to start by being clear on what Christela says. I completely disagree with Christela.

Unless you work in a country that removes ownership of the translation from the translator when he is paid, the truth is that the translator owns his translation. What he sells to his client is not ownership of the translation but permission to use it. Usually this amounts to the same thing, since the client's source text is confidential and therefore the translation is also confidential, and because permission to use the translation is tied to permission to use the source text.

So, if two clients both have rights to the same source text (i.e. both have acquired the right to have it translated), then you are free to sell permission to use your translation of that source text to both of them (unless you have an alternative arrangement with the one client). I'm not saying that you should be eager to do so, but simply that you are well within your rights to do so.

Whether you are allowed to do that is one half of the issue. The other half is that you have a responsibility to protect (or at least respect) the [commercial] interests of the first client that gave you that source text. So you have to decide to what degree you'd be placing the first client at a disadvantage if you decide to work for the second client. In some industries, where the same or similar texts are used again and again by multiple organisations (owing to the nature of the files), translating a similar (or the same) text for two different clients may be perfectly acceptable.

NR_Stedman wrote:
I recently accepted to translate an article and didn't realise I had already done it until a day before deadline because of many small differences and a completely different presentation. What I would like to know is am I entitled to use my translation twice for two different clients...?


If the texts are not exactly the same, then you should ask yourself if you would normally have translated them in such a way that the same translation would have occurred for both texts.

You also have to decide to what degree you are willing to mix translations of multiple clients into a single translation memory or reference file repository. It would depend on the type of industry that you're working in.

For my financial translations, I add all my translations to a single TM, and if I get high fuzzy matches for a new client's text, I re-use my old translations without hesitation, but I do always check if the translation is truly a translation of the current source text.

For my pharmaceutical translations, I often add my translations to a reference TM that I consult only for terminological issues, but I do not mix translations from different clients into a single TM that I use for fuzzy matching... even though I know that doing so would likely result in many, many useful fuzzy matches. I know of other pharmaceutical translator colleagues who do it differently (they do add all translations to a single TM used for fuzzy matching), so it really depends on you to decide what you believe is safest.


[Edited at 2012-06-14 10:23 GMT]


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NR_Stedman  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:40
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Samuel Jun 14, 2012

for your clearly reasoned opinion. I should add that for obvious reasons it is extremely unlikely that a translator would be asked to translate a confidential or commercially important text twice by different people; all the documents I am talking about here are in the public domain and report important new legislation or new information affecting lots of different "stakeholders" (I dislike that word but it is very apt here) who all therefore rapidly need a translation

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 05:40
Chinese to English
There has to be an answer to this... Jun 14, 2012

http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html

"If I make up my own stories, but base them on another work, my new work belongs to me."
False. U.S. Copyright law is quite explicit that the making of what are called "derivative works" -- works based or derived from another copyrighted work -- is the exclusive province of the owner of the original work. This is true even though the making of these new works is a highly creative process. If you write a story using settings or characters from somebody else's work, you need that author's permission.


I don't know if the above is correct - the author doesn't appear to be a lawyer. But it would solve the problem for the case you describe, NR. The copyright for any translation you do vests in the author of the original piece.

Bloody hell. That appears to create an enormous problem for us. It means that permission would be needed for translation of a newspaper article, for example. I hope that's not right, or that there's a fair use exemption!


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 05:40
Chinese to English
This sounds more sensible Jun 14, 2012

http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/copy-corner73.htm

"A more common situation... is when the library engages the services of a translator or translation service to translate a scientific or technical article for use within that company. This activity normally does not usually generate copyright concerns, but it certainly could. An article is translated and a single copy is delivered to the translator’s customer (a company). Traditionally that copy is passed around to the researchers who need to see it. The translator is paid for his services, but in no way claims copyright in the translations he produces; the copyright is in the underlying article. ...

Few copyright holders have complained when a translations service produces a translation for a single corporate client. Whether it has been considered fair use or not by copyright holders is not known....

Most translations of scientific and technical literature are works for hire in a sense, but not in the copyright sense. Typically, in copyright law, a work for hire relates to the underlying copyrighted work. Here, the company hires a translator, but the company has no ownership rights in the copyright of the underlying article. Thus, it is not a work for hire under the copyright law."

Still not very clear, but the point is: in the vast majority of commercial translation, we don't own the copyright to what we produce, and thus cannot sell it to our clients. There can be no conflict between clients.

Of course, this is just for the US. It might be different in other jurisdictions!


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 05:40
Chinese to English
Sorry about the multiple posts... Jun 14, 2012

I got interested in the question! This person thinks something different:

http://www.iti.org.uk/pdfs/articles/Copyright.pdf

"Who owns the translation?
The author owns the translation. As a freelance translator, you as the author own the translation....providing you have not pledged your right to someone else, you still own the copyright."

I'm now thoroughly confused.


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NR_Stedman  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:40
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Phil Jun 14, 2012

for your research. I think that your first two posts are basically questioning the translator's right to translate anything even once without the original author's permission! In my case I'm sure the use of both my translations was legal as in one case the authors' permission must have been obtained for publication.

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Jabberwock  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 22:40
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Not exactly... Jun 14, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:
Still not very clear, but the point is: in the vast majority of commercial translation, we don't own the copyright to what we produce, and thus cannot sell it to our clients. There can be no conflict between clients.


It is not entirely true. The copyright for the original work and the copyright for translations are not the same. You cannot distribute commercially the translation without the consent of the original author, but you also cannot distribute the translation without the translator's permission (unless they have waived that right, of course).

In fact, in some jurisidictions it has been ruled that you can have copyright for the translation of the work which was not covered by copyright itself. One typical example is a text of a given piece of legislation - the law is not copyrighted, but its translations are.


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BeaDeer  Identity Verified
English to Slovenian
+ ...
No need for confusion :-) Jun 14, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:

I'm now thoroughly confused.



The author of the article on the ITI web site is 100% correct.

The EU Database Directive (no such thing in the US) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31996L0009:EN:HTML also makes for an interesting read in this respect.
A TM put together on your time, with your skill and your software is also your IP, unless of course you sell it off.







[Edited at 2012-06-14 20:18 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-06-14 20:19 GMT]


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