July 13 2017 in Language Connect by Global-Language

Who is going to be a translation rights owner?

Ownership for translation rights is a well-known concern among translation agency customers. How are the author rights laws applied?

The confusion lies in the very essence of translation. If you are not a special juridical education holder, like thousands of others, it may be hard to come up with the answer. Can this sort of activity be actually protected? What would the links between the parties be?

The answer is ambiguous, and the answer to it depends on many aspects. Let’s see the comments of our law consultant:

To begin with, it may differ from country to country. Check if the following points are sorted out:

  • What is the status of the original?

The laws of many states recognize such derivatives of the works of literature as artistic processing of certain materials without causing damage to its protection (abstract, artistic processing, etc.) For instance, texts like news, descriptions of current events or weather forecasts, cannot be defined as works of literature, hence, no derivatives of such material can be protected by author laws.

The translation of political, legislative, and administrative texts (including identity documents, agreements, certificates on education, which make up the main flow of orders in agencies) cannot be protected.

  • Have you got an agreement with the author?

More than that, legislative support can be provided only in case of compliance with the rights of the author. The permission has to be obtained in compliance with the licensed agreement with the author rights holder.

  • Is your work creative?

Surely, creative translations are considered to be works of literature, although, the definition of arts is not precisely determined. Thus, it’s easier to determine which texts are not the works of art (literature).

Straightforward word-for-word translation cannot be considered because of precise repeating. It doesn’t mean that this sort of work has no value. Literal processing is often a result of tough highly professional work; some additional explanations or glossaries require much time and effort.

No sort of machine translation can be protected by author rights, as it’s done automatically and has no human input.

A reverse translation, i.e. translation of some text, which was already translated, back into the original language, cannot be considered a work of literature either. The very fact of the necessity of such works sounds ridiculous, but sometimes it’s needed, for instance, in case the original was lost.

When ordering a translation through some agency, the rights for it automatically belong to both – the customer and the company. If the issue of having ownership rights is crucial, it has to be mentioned in the signed paper.


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