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Copyright in translation

Hi, my name is Anastasia and I recently started a translation gig. My question is, can I translate copyrighted texts for a costumers private usage or do I still need permission from the original owner? What can I translate and what can’t I translate? Thanks for your answers :slight_smile:


If you really want buyers with copyright job to contact you, specify it on your gig description.

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Yeah but I am the one who needs permission from the owner to translate copyrighted texts if it’s not the buyer itself who is the owner of course. If a customer gives me an article from the web I can’t just translate it without the rights to do so.

Do somebody else, like @lloydsolutions, @vickiespencer, @imagination7413 know something about this issue?
I was wondering the same and I wasn’t able to find a solutions reading the ToS.



I think this has actually come up before, I’ll look.

For the moment, though, I’m almost 100% sure that anything in the publish domain (like Shakespeare’s stuff or Sherlock Holmes) can be translated with no issues.

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Here’s the thread I was thinking of.

The situation is different, because the OP of that thread wanted to sell the book, rather than sell the service of translating, but some of the same issues apply.

From an ethics standpoint, you don’t know if your client will keep those translations to themselves.

For example:
Scanlations of manga are made by volunteers, but usually end up on the internet where people can get traffic or ad revenue. They are profiting from the translation.

It seems a tricky issue. If I only translate for, let’s say, myself, without publishing anything and gain a profit, I should be safe from a legal point of view. Is it right?

Then, what if a buyer submit a copyrighted piece and ask for a translation? I’m still ok?
But yeah, from an ethic standpoint, I don’t know what the buyer is gonna do with the final translation…

It could be reasonable to add into Buyer Requirements something like “Do you have a copyright license for the project you are submitting?” or/and “Is your project protected by Copyright or is it a Public Domain Work”?

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I’ll admit there’s a bit of “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture in freelancing. Plausible deniability.

There’re sellers who are just looking at the money, and don’t care if they’re helping someone cheat. There are others who will let it slide, but block a buyer after the current order is done.
And then there are sellers I know will, if they suspect/discover the work is academic, cancel orders due to moral conflict. Similar in teaching gigs.

All I can really advise is to set your boundaries now. Have the moral dilemma while there’s not a deadline in your face, or your grocery budget on the line.

“One of the most basic building blocks of how to be a good leader is possessing strong character and integrity. At all times —not just when someone is paying attention to what you’re doing. Integrity runs deep. It’s the core of who you are.”

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Thanks a lot. You’re right, I have to choose now what kind of seller I want to be.

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No, I do not. I have never been asked to provide this service.

Thanks for your reply and your time.