About translation copyright

Clients of the translation agency are sometimes interested: who will own the copyright for the translation? The answer to this question is not as straightforward as it seems at first glance, and depends on many factors. We asked the legal adviser of the translation agency to tell us about this.

— To begin with, we would like to ask a question that many clients of the translation agency England probably ask. After all, a translation is already a transposition of an existing text from the original language into another language, so why should the translation have copyrights at all, if it is logical to assume that the rights should belong to the author of the original?

— In order to answer these questions, one should first decide in what cases a translation is generally protected by copyright. The Law of Ukraine “On Copyright and Related Rights” (hereinafter – the Law) classifies translations as derivative works. In accordance with the Law, a derivative work is a work that is a creative reworking of another existing work without causing harm to its protection (abstract, adaptation, arrangement, processing of folklore, other processing of a work) or its creative translation into another language … (Article 1 of the Law) .

From this we can conclude that, firstly, a translation will be considered a derivative work and protected by copyright if the original text itself is a work.

Objects of copyright translation

Thus, the law defines what are not objects of copyright, for example, messages about the news of the day or current events that have the character of ordinary press information (paragraph a) part 1 of Art. 10 of the Law). This means that the translation of a news bulletin or weather forecast will not be protected by copyright either.
Also, for example, the Law does not include official documents of a political, legislative, administrative nature (laws, decrees, resolutions, court decisions, state standards, etc.) and their official translations published by state authorities within their powers (para. c) Part 1 of Art. 10 of the Law). Therefore, a translation of a law or a court decision will not be protected by copyright. The latter also applies to laws issued many centuries ago, for example, the Code of Justinian, Russkaya Pravda or the Civil Code of Eastern Galicia of 1797.
Also, the translation of any official documents will not be protected by copyright: contracts, passports, education documents, etc. (which is the main flow of orders to translation agencies). The texts of such documents are not works, they are not protected by copyright, and therefore their translations will not be objects of copyright. Interpretation of business negotiations will also have nothing to do with copyright.

Secondly, the translation will be protected if it is a creative translation. What kind of translation will be considered creative? The current legislation provides neither a definition of creativity nor a definition of creative translation. Therefore, it is easier to determine which translations will not be creative.

Of course, a literal or, as it is also called, interlinear translation will not be creative. Such a translation exactly repeats the text of the original. This does not mean that such a translation has no value. Interlinear translation is often the result of thorough, highly professional work, which involves not only translating the original text, but also accompanying it with comments, and sometimes even with a dictionary. Sometimes interlinear translation precedes literary translation. A textbook example of this is the Russian translation of Homer’s Odyssey. Now we are reading this poem translated by the Russian poet V. A. Zhukovsky. But this translation was made according to a German interlinear prepared by Professor Karl Grashof.

Machine translation

Also, machine translation, a translation made using special computer programs, will not be protected by copyright, since such a translation will not bear the creative contribution of the translator at all.

And even more so, a reverse translation, that is, a translation of an already translated text into the original language, will not be subject to copyright. Such a translation will either repeat exactly the text of the original, or distort it. The question about the purpose of such a translation is obvious: why translate if the text is in the original? However, such a translation is sometimes necessary if the original work is lost.

In addition, the Law gives legal protection only to those translations that are made in compliance with the rights of the author of the original work (Part 1, Article 20 of the Law). If the translator has not received the right to translate from the author of the original work or another right holder (for example, an heir) under a license agreement or an agreement on the transfer of exclusive property rights, then he cannot claim his rights to the translation. It is clear that this rule does not apply to works for which the term of property rights has expired (it is the lifetime of the author and 70 years after his death) or which were created at a time when legal protection of works was not yet provided for at all. Thus, one can freely translate the speeches of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the sonnets of Francesco Petrarch or the comedies of Molière.

It should be noted that in addition to the property right to translate, the translator must observe the non-property right of the author to the inviolability of the work. This right is intended to protect the author from any distortion of his work, encroachment on his creative intent, the reputation of the author. When translating, only its external form, the language, can be changed. Artistic images, characters, the creative intent of the author must be preserved.

It is possible to imagine a situation when the author of a work, having read the translation, considers that his creative intent is distorted, and generally prohibits the publication or use of his work in translation. It is clear that such an assessment is purely subjective. First of all, it concerns literary translation. The ideas of the original author and the translator regarding the creative concept, figurative style, translation quality, etc. may not coincide. In addition, there are currently no officially approved translation quality standards. Therefore, a dispute regarding the quality of a translation can only be resolved by professional translators and will not have a legal character. But the translation can already be paid for and the book can already be published.

The author’s claims regarding the quality of the translation can only be avoided by performing a trial translation, i.e., by translating any part of the work, after which the text of the translation is submitted for evaluation to the author of the original.

Returning to the question posed at the beginning of the article: “Who will own the copyright for the translation?”, We can summarize that legal protection can be discussed if: 1) a truly copyrighted work is being translated (neither a contract, nor a certificate, nor a diploma, not an instruction or instruction manual, but, for example, a story, a novel or a scientific article); 2) the translation is creative; 3) the translator must respect the property and non-property rights of the author (in other words, obtain permission from the author or other copyright holder and not distort the original when translating). If these conditions are met, then when clarifying the issue of ownership of the rights to a translation, one should refer to the provisions of the Civil Code of Ukraine, namely, Part 2 of Art. 430: proprietary intellectual property rights to an object created by order,

As a result, we come to the conclusion that the property rights to a translation of a work ordered from a translation agency will, by default, belong jointly to the customer and the translation agency. If the customer wishes to reserve property rights only for himself, this should be specifically stipulated in the contract.

If you are interested in translation into a foreign language, as well as professional advice on how to certify quality, then our consultants of the legal translation agency Manchester will be happy to answer all your questions and place an order.

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