Some of our clients approach translation services with little information as to how to manage the translation workflow and who is legally the owner of the works. We are here to help you! Pangeanic’s Terms and Conditions clarify in Clause 6 that as our translation services are “work for hire”, you will be free for any “Translations and Copyright” issue. We do not intend to keep or pursue any copyright over the work after payment. Our Terms and Conditions state [quote]

6. Copyright and Intellectual Property.

The translation is the property of the client. Once the client has paid the agreed service fees or those resulting from ulterior modifications and additions, the translation of the described items will be the property of the client.

Pangeanic shall have no right over the Intellectual Property or Copyright, trade marks, or other client’s rights in connection to the translation, unless specifically stipulated in the present Contract. Notwithstanding the above, the translation service provider will have the right to maintain copies of the original items and the resulting translation for its own archives, subject to Confidentiality agreed in section 5.

Definition of Translation

Copyright laws in several countries include translation within the definition of “every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work”. This definition would classify translations as original works, giving them the same copyright protections as non-derivative original works.

Translation tends to be defined, in the context of copyright, as “the turning of something from one human language to another.” However, an important distinction must be made between a translation, which can be protected, and a simple conversion from one language into another.  Braille services, for example, when converting literary or other works from a text into Braille are considered conversions and not translations. The owner of the copyright of the original works retains his or her copyright, and the Braille version is considered a reproduction of the book, not an original work. Consequently, it cannot protected by a new copyright.

translations and copyright

What rights does the translator and the original copyright owner have in a translation?

A person willing to translate a copyrighted work must obtain permission from the copyright owner. In the case of our translation services, it is the client who hires our services. Pangeanic does not seek to be recognized as the translator of the works and the client does not need to recognize that Pangeanic has translated its website, commercial literature, technical manuals, etc. We provide translation services upon these basis to companies, business and individuals over the world.

Normally, translation is considered a derivative work. Legislation varies from country to country but most countries agree that translation is derivative because it exists in relation to a previous, original work.

Derivative works are infringing copyright law if they are not created with the permission of the copyright owner. Thus, a work of fiction or a book cannot be translated into any language and distributed without the original author’s permission, or alternatively the permission of the copyright holder. If the author seeks or authorizes a translation, the author owns the copyright in the translation because it is a work for hire. In most legislations, the employing party is the author when dealing for a work for hire. The terms of the contract bind both parties by payment.

Literary translation, translation of books

Even though they are considered derivative works, translations are eligible for copyright as an original work. A translation, particularly literary translation services, involve considerable creative skills, effort and labor by the translator. In some cases, they may be registered as an original work but always in prior agreement between the parties.

It is indeed crucial to have permission from the author, company, or individual that owns the copyright of the work. A special contract and pricing between the author and the translation company may be required. The contract tends to be an arrangement between a publisher and a translator. The duties of each party are laid out in the contract, as they would in any commercial transaction. This is also where a translator may sign away his or her right to copyright and right to royalties.

Commercial translations (technical translations, marketing translations, medical translations, translations of websites)

All these cases are originated by a Client with a need to translate a text of any nature. Pangeanic can only assume that the person or company approaching Pangeanic with a request for translation services is in fact the original owner of the text or works that need translation. Such an arrangement is in place with major multinationals worldwide.

As part of our ISO9001 certification, we are required to prove that our clients are provided with a copy or access to our Terms and Conditions so any queries about translations and copyright are made clear before entering in a work for hire arrangement. We sometimes engage in highly creative works (transcreation) which require a complete adaptation of a text to a certain market. These are specialist translation services, which nevertheless are still covered by a commercial contract. The copyright remains with the client. Pangeanic will keep a copy of the works because according to US and European law, it has to provide access to the material for at least 5 years after completion and for traceability purposes.

In any case, the owner of the original copyright maintains rights over both works. The copyright in the translation is always subordinate.

Translations from the public domain

If a work is not protected by copyright – typically because its copyright expired between 50-70 years after the death of the author – does not require any permission to be translated. There is no copyright on the original. Therefore, you are free to translate most classics if no descendant, foundation or institute have made a claim for an extension on copyrights. The new translation will qualify as an original work and will be protected by copyright.

Further reading:
Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions

Why a Digital Publisher Needs a Translation Company as a Partner

Why a Digital Publisher Needs a Translation Company as a Partner

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