Legal issue regarding copyright

by Florin T. Deger
(Pitman, NJ, USA)

Dear Joanna,

I am a German to English medical translator. I have a question regarding a legal situation that translators could encounter. I do not expect legally binding advice; the opinion of a translation professional would be helpful.
The scenario is the following. An independent translator receives via a translation agency from a client a job involving the translation of an internet piece. The translator duly performs the translation and turns it over via the translation agency to the client. It turns out that the piece was protected by copyright and the client did not have permission from the copyright holder to commission the translation. The translator was not aware of this legal detail. The client distributes the translation and copyright infringement occurs.
Who would be liable for this copyright infringement: the independent translator, the translation agency, or the client?
Thank you for your opinion.

Best regards and thank you for the very informative website

Florin (Mr)

Comments for Legal issue regarding copyright

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Copyright considerations
by: Joanna

Hello Florin

Great question, and luckily nothing I've had to deal with in my translation career to date.

My belief is that it is the client who is liable, having officially instructed the breach of copyright through the act of commissioning the translation.

The translation agency would have accepted the commission to translate the text in good faith, plus, I'd be amazed if the translation agency's own General Terms & Conditions didn't specify that they were not to be held liable in just such a case. It is the task of the translation agency to provide the best possible translation, not to assume the client's duty of due diligence.

The independent translator has a contractual relationship with the translation agency, not the client (who they may not even be able to identify), and I would assume is totally in the clear in this instance.

If you get any professional legal argumentation, I'd love to hear it.

Best regards


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German to English Translation

Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

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