Copyright and Translation: What Every Translator Needs to Know
A guest post by Suzanne E. Deliscar
One of the oft-talked about legal issues currently facing translators is who owns copyright in their translation work product. For the most part, there have been many questions, and relatively few answers, such as:
* Are clients at liberty to change a translators’ work without their consent, since the translator has been paid for their work?
* Where do translators stand, e.g. if a translator delivers a grammatically correct piece of work and when it appears in print or on the web, it has been altered in a way that the translator would not have approved of?
* Should a translator ask for a final proof-read and sign off? Should translators insist on a contract whereby that happens? Is it really worth it to do all the above?
* What is the relationship between agencies / direct clients regarding ownership / copyright to translations? What is the difference between ownership and copyright?
* Can translators withhold copyright / ownership rights if an agency doesn’t pay?
Before these questions can be answered, it is important to understand the fundamental principles upon which intellectual property rights, and copyright, in particular, are based. Intellectual Property rights, also commonly known as IP, are legal rights that result from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields [Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)]. Intellectual property includes copyright, trademarks, industrial designs, confidential information, and patents.
Copyright is, simply put, “the right to copy”. In other words, copyright is a statutory or common law right of authors, artists and developers (or other holders of a copyright) to publish their words, and to prevent others from copying their works. Copyright is a right that is distinct from the ownership of the material with which it is associated. Copyright arises automatically upon creation of the work. Copyright protects the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. Copyright protects works that are fixed in some material form. In summary, copyright protects original literary, artistic, musical and dramatic works (s. 5 of the Copyright Act (Canada)).
I have noticed many posts on online forums for translators and interpreters regarding the translator or interpreter’s copyright in their work. For example, for those who work as staff/in-house translators, the question of whether or not an employed translator can claim copyright in the translations produced during the course of their employment is typically answered in the negative. In the majority of employer-employee relationships, there is an understanding, typically distilled in writing in an employment agreement, that any products created within the course of employment become the permanent property of the employer. This flows from the premise that employers are paying for the copyrighted works to be produced, and the in-house translator is exchanging their work product for pay.
Many literary translators have also asked how they can protect their copyright in their literary translations and receive royalties. This question must be answered in detail depending on the circumstances, but typically a literary translator and a writer or the publisher will enter into an agreement prior to the translation of the book, which will set out the fees to be received for both the translation of the literary work, as well as royalties generated from the translated book. There are a number of literary translation organizations worldwide, such as the PEN American Center and the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada, which advocate for and support translators in their quest for recognition for their contributions to the literary world.
On May 16, 2013, I presented a webinar entitled “Copyright and Translation: What Every Translator Needs to Know” in partnership with eCPD webinars in response to many inquiries from fellow linguists who wanted to know how to use current copyright laws to protect their translation work product. The webinar is now available on-demand, and covers the following topics in relation to global copyright law issues that translators need to be aware of:
* Copyright Terms in Relation to Translation – in order to understand copyright and translation in tandem, we must first understand copyright terminology.
* Copyright Infringement – what happens when copyright is infringed?
* Copyright Litigation – when copyright is infringed, a common remedy is to seek relief from a court.
* Remedies for Copyright Infringement – when deciding to seek relief from a court, there are a number of remedies available to copyright holders.
* Copyright Licensing – copyright holders have a number of options if they wish to license the right to copy their works.
* Global Issues: Copyright in Translation Work Product – a question and answer format addressing the most pressing issues arising from the interplay of copyright and translation.
* International Treaties Affecting Copyright – which international treaties should translators be aware of when it comes to copyright?
This course is focused on the global legal issues that need to be addressed in relation to copyright in translation work product. This course is approved for one (1) American Translators Association Continuing Education point. Please note that copyright laws vary from country to country, and as such, this webinar focuses on global issues, due to time constraints.
Suzanne Deliscar is a Canadian lawyer-linguist who translates in the French-English and Spanish-English language pairs. She focuses on legal and official document translation, as well as contract abstraction and e-discovery in Spanish and French. She is also the developer and presenter of over 20 webinar programs for translators and interpreters, focusing on legal translation, official document translation, and marketing. Ms. Deliscar specializes in providing legal and language services in English, Spanish and French.
More information about Suzanne Deliscar can be found on her website at http://www.suzannedeliscar.ca