Elkton, MD asked in Copyright and Intellectual Property for Maryland

Q: I have a question regarding U.S. Copyright.

I have a question regarding U.S. Copyright.

I have a work that is written in English.

Let's say I translate that work into some other languages using Google Translate or some other online translation service and I edit a little bit to make the translation better.

1. Who is the translator in this case?

2. How does the copyright work when there is a translator(s) involved?

Thank you in advance.

1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: The person who wrote the words originally, in its original language, is the copyright owner. The translation performed by Google Translate is a free translation service subject to whatever terms of use are written in the Google terms of use provisions. Your minor edits do not convert what (a) somebody else wrote and did not give explicit consent to translate, or (b) 95% of what Google Translate translated, into your marketable and copyrightable work. Generally, in order for an original translation to be deemed copyrightable, the translator must obtain consent of the original author to perform the translation, and the translation must be their own translation and not one generated by a third party, unless it was part of a contract for a translation for hire that gave the ownership of the translation to the party issuing the contract. As far as translating a work without the consent of the original author, while you may be able to prevent anyone from using your original unauthorized translation without your consent, you would not be free to sell or distribute your translation without the consent of the original author. However, I do not see how you could prevent anyone from using your (1) unauthorized and (2) predominantly Google-generated translation, since little of the translation is even yours to begin with.

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