Ethical dilemma
Thread poster: Monika Marczak
Monika Marczak
Local time: 05:35
Polish to English
Aug 22, 2013

Hi all!

I have a slight ethical dilemma. I've searched online for what other translators have done in similar situations and the field seems divided.

A client has asked me to translate two acts, both of which have translations already available online. Normally I would advise the client; however, the client is an official EU agency, and one of the the available translations is available through the EC Europa website. It says that the translation was taken from another site, spot-checked and corrected as necessary. The other act is also available online; however, not through the EC site. It is one of the most-used Polish acts and most translators likely know that there is an existing English version.

I had a similar situation several weeks ago and advised the client (a different client to this one), who then asked me to verify the existing translation at half the price. In this case, however, I think that because the client is an official EU body, they should be aware of existing translations on EU websites?

I would appreciate some feedback, especially what others have done in similar situations.

Cheers!


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 03:35
Chinese to English
Have to ask Aug 22, 2013

...because there's a question of authoritativeness here. If a law is published in a certain version, that version might be authoritative, so even if the translation is wrong, it's still right by convention.

I would ask the client what their attitude toward the existing translation is. They might want you to avoid looking at it; or they might prefer you to maintain consistency. The possible loss of revenue is unavoidable, I'm afraid.


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:35
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Much as it might be annoying Aug 22, 2013

to have to point out to a client that the work they've asked you to do is already done, I think that you have to tell them.

They may want an official translation done properly and it may be that they don't consider the existing translation any good. If you find this out, you know that you need to improve on the existing one.

They may of course not know that this translation exists in which case you lose the job but gain a happy client who may give you work in the future.

You just don't know and you won't until you speak to the client. Either way, you need to know what their position is.

I would just say "are you aware of these existing translations of these acts?", send them the link and ask if they still want you to go ahead.


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Monika Marczak
Local time: 05:35
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Matters of conscience Aug 22, 2013

Thank you for taking the time to reply

As soon as I posted this thread I knew I couldn't live with myself if I didn't mention this to the client, so I e-mailed them and am waiting for a response.

Phil, the translations are on the Europa site; however, they are not technically 'official'. At the beginning of the document it gives the source of the translation and says that the translation has been 'spot-checked and corrected as required', which technically still leaves plenty of room for potential error.

Cheers!


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:35
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
good luck Monika! Aug 22, 2013

I hope that they asked you to do the job because they really want the translation to be done properly once and for all.

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Monika Marczak
Local time: 05:35
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for your replies :) Aug 22, 2013

Thank you Marie-Helene, the agency thanked me and have passed the feedback on to their client. Still awaiting a final verdict

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:35
Russian to English
+ ...
What acts? Do you mean the constitution? Aug 22, 2013

If it is in the public domain -- it can be translated, unless it says otherwise (note about any copyrights). I don't really understand the problem.

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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:35
English to Polish
+ ...
Advise the client, but there is no 'official version' Aug 22, 2013

There is no official version. Any versions published by Polish government agencies have at best a semi-official status in common parlance, but from a legal point of view they're strictly unofficial. They can also be pretty bad, actually, though some are quite good.

This said, tell the client about the situation. For the record, the client should have its lawyers resolve any copyright situation instead of devolving it to you. And, those unofficial (semi-official) translations may actually have copyrights entitling a private person whose rights have never been legally acquired by the agency, depending on the legal framework. While they're obviously intended to be free for use, uploading them on the website of a different agency elsewhere would be a different cup of tea.

So, advise the client, categorically refuse to deal with any copyright issues, forget taking legal risks on yourself, which a not entirely competent, inaertia driven and avoidant public body very well might ask you to do or even 'require' you to do. Remember that even though they coax or pressure you into a certain course of action, it doesn't mean they can't try to shift the blame on you later. You need some concrete, perfectly documented communication to extricate yourself from any copyright problem.


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xxxowhisonant  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:35
German to English
+ ...
Interesting issue... Aug 22, 2013

...had a similar situation quite recently. Received a German text from an agency, entered a sample on Google, and bingo, a very good English translation of the material was already online.

So I went ahead and told the client. They already knew (gee, thanks for telling me!). Turns out I was working on an extensive update to the material - some rearrangement, rewrites and additions. They had no translation memory prepared, and welcomed my using whatever existing portions of the text I could, still paying me for every word.

In this case, the client owned the text, and gave me permission to use it (after I explicitly raised the issue). But I have to wonder about copyright on translations in general. Of course, if a book is translated, then the author's and publisher's property rights will transfer to the translation, but does this also apply to translations of medical reports, acts of law, business contracts, etc.? If so, Google Translate, Linguee, TAUS, as some examples of search engines that "recycle" translations, are running quite a risk... A large and scary translation agency recently sent me their ICA, and it had a two page stipulation at the end expressly prohibiting the use of any material from one of those engines, and more importantly, the upload of any material into those engines. As these evolve and and expand in content, I believe the issue will become increasingly relevant.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:35
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Well done Aug 23, 2013

Clearly you need to tell them, even if only for your own peace of mind, and let them decide what to do.

Personally I dislike to be paid for work I did not do, and I reckon every person in his/her right mind might think the same way.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:35
English to Polish
+ ...
free MT & copyrights Aug 23, 2013

I'm pretty sure any MT recycling its translations would come with adequate Terms of Service protecting the owner, but problems could still arise from unlawful uploads (i.e. by a non-entitled uploader). In such a case, though, there'd be little to require other than pulling down any recognisable confidential or creative content, and no damages or compensation for its use, not to mention that the free MT owner would typically be a large, established and respected corporation that doesn't run the same risks as the average Joe who finds himself on the wrong side of the law.

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Monika Marczak
Local time: 05:35
Polish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Sorry for the late reply... Aug 23, 2013

...I've been busy verifying this translation :/.

Lilian, the problem isn't about whether to translate something that is publically available, but about using an existing translation (done by someone else).

Regarding potential copyright issues, wouldn't translation fall under the category of something that can't be fully copyrighted (I understand that translations of books etc. are, but legal documents would be slightly different)? The reason behind my logic is that, technically, if you have a sentence and get it translated by 10 people, most translations will be very similar (especially in legalese such as the acts in this case). So who would be to say that, in the situation at hand, the translator didn't translate it on their own? Obviously, 60 pages of an act will never be translated identically word for word, I'm just posing a theoretical question. I'm not advocating such practice.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:35
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Honesty is the best policy Aug 23, 2013

I agree with the others who advise that you should inform the client.

This will show the client that you are

(a) well-informed
(b) honest

and will establish trust with them.

Expect more work to follow !


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