Copyright and Translation


How does the translation and copyright work together?

Generally, the translation does not qualify for copyright protection as it is considered as ‘work for hire’ with translator either being employed or contracted to do the work.

Does the translated text need to have sufficient originality for the author to be able to retain any sort of copyright authorship, but who can be the judge of that? Logically, since the translated text is only an adaptation of the original content, the translator should be rightful copyright owner of translated text, as no one has actually put these words in this language in this exact order. It's definitely seems reasonable enough to consider the copyright infringement impossible in the translation of legal documents, user manuals and factual in nature technical and scientific literature where the translation would meet the originality requirement, but what about the literary translations where translator’s skill and effort?

According to Copyright Act, a translation is a derivative work that could only be done with the permission of the copyright owner, and if we are talking about a translation of an ancient Persian poem for example, the underlying work is in the public domain, and therefore the person performing the translation work may claim copyright.

At the beginning of the modern copyright era, back in late 70s and 80s, various International organizations stressed upon implementing legislation to grant translators with the copyright protection with the idea of advocating global development and the importance of translations in culture. According to Berne convention, if somebody is making profit from the translated text, the translator is entitled to a share of the profits reinforcing the intellectual property and appreciating the translator’s skill and effort.

There is a decent amount of uncertainty regarding general copyright status of Professional translation, and cases are dealt with on an individual basis, however the decisive factor in this matter plays the contract signed between the translator and hiring party.


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