Text has already been translated - plagiarism, copyright and theft.
Thread poster: CMJK

CMJK  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:01
Member (2008)
German to English
Jan 30, 2014

I was asked to translate a large legal-type document for an agency (so I didn't know who the ultimate client was).

After preliminary research, I discovered that the text of this large document was actually available online. The catch - there's a fee payable (less than ten percent of what I would charge). There's no reason why an English-speaking client couldn't have discovered this themselves, so I'm rather puzzled as to why they didn't!

I couldn't bring myself to (in my opinion) "cheat" by purchasing this source as a reference, without at least negotiating it further with the client. And likewise I couldn't bring myself to simply duplicate a massive job requiring quite a bit of effort in the knowledge that it had been done before. Without paying the fee, I can't tell what the quality of the translation is, and whether I could improve on it (limited scope for this in any case with legal texts). So I informed the agency, but I haven't heard back as yet.

What is the protocol in this area? How far can you go relying on previous translations, and when is it time to put your hands up?

I'd be interested to hear your views!


Jitka Komarkova (Mgr.)  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 23:01
Member (2013)
English to Czech
+ ...
Depends on what your priorities are... Jan 30, 2014

Hi "CMJK"!

I have been in a very similar situation when a client requested translation of forms - which are publicly available on EU sites in all language versions. However, the client did not know. As among my basic principles are RELIABILITY, INTEGRITY AND FAIR PLAY, I told the client and redirected them to the site to download the official documents. It might seem foolish, but this is my way...

In your situation, when you do not know about the quality of the translation, I would probably inform the client about this possibility - with the reservation that you cannot guarantee its quality and it is at their discretion to decide whether they pay you or use the internet resource.

On the other hand, you may win a free weekend! Isn't it worth it?

Good luck!


Nicole Coesel  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:01
Member (2012)
Dutch to English
+ ...
plagiarism, copyright and theft ... or yet another scam? Jan 30, 2014


Hope you are not working for the same person!

Have you considered the possibility of being scammed?

Best of luck.


CMJK  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:01
Member (2008)
German to English
I don't *think* it's a scam Jan 30, 2014

Oh yes, about the possibility of a scam, I should have said: the agency itself is legit, I have worked with them for a number of years. So it's unlikely to be a scam, unless scammers are having a go at agencies now. Good point though, anytime something fishy comes up, it's a good idea to think "scam?"

And Jitka, yes, the very first thing I thought of on the bright side was "free weekend!!"... until the next mail arrivesicon_wink.gif

I am intrigued to know how the agency plans to deal with the information. The moral practicalities for a company might be different than for a sole trader. For all I know, it has already demanded and received payment for the work. If they *do* plan to sneak this past the client, all I would ask of them is: please don't let me know I could have got away with it!!



LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:01
Russian to English
+ ...
It would be only plagiarism if you used the already existing translations and Jan 30, 2014

presented them as your own. If you translate the forms from scratch, or the documnt rather, it will not be plagiarism, but you cannot look at the translated document, because then your translation will look exactly the same. Everyone uses slightly different words, or even the syntax.


CMJK  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:01
Member (2008)
German to English
A nod is as good as a wink Jan 31, 2014

I have received instructions from the agency to go ahead with the translation.

You may make of that what you will.


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:01
Chinese to English
I get this sometimes with back-translations Jan 31, 2014

Sometimes I find a text is written in a curious "translationese" style, and sure enough, it's a back-translation. It is absolutely beyond me why clients choose not to tell us that the job is back-translation. Do they seriously think we won't find out? Do they understand so little about how translators go about their job?

Anyway, when it happens, I do the same as you. Usually I ask whether the client would like me to make reference to the available materials. If it's a short job or no answer is forthcoming, I make a judgment call. Either use the original for comparison, or mine it for terminology, or deliberately avoid looking at it.

I remember one big job translating standards that was quite poorly paid. I took it precisely because a lot of Chinese standards are translations from existing ISO standards, so I could turn a translation job into an editing job. The same client wanted me to do more later, but the relevant English language standards weren't available, so I had to turn them down.


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Text has already been translated - plagiarism, copyright and theft.

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