Our recent article on understanding translation memories and how they work once again raised the question of who owns a translation memory (TM) database.
In the translation industry, misinformation and urban myths surround the topic of TM ownership. One point of view holds that the database is a result of work contracted for and paid for by the client, so the client has a right to receive the memory files once the project is complete. The opposing view point is that without the creative work of the translator, the TM files would not exist at all.
And it's not just in theory that these questions come up. We regularly encounter this question when starting to work with new clients. In a surprising number of cases, new clients tell us that they don't have/own their old TMs.
The question is important enough that SDL stated their position on Copyright protection for Translation Memories [PDF link]. The upshot: If you care about who owns the TM, make sure you have an agreement.
Still confused? Ross Smith collected a great list of resources on intellectual property, copyright, and translation tools.
To resolve the question of TM ownership, at ForeignExchange we incorporate this in all of our agreements with clients and subcontractors. Everybody involved in medical translation - client, translation company, individual linguist - should review these resources and formulate their own policies and legal framework so that they can answer the question "who owns the TM" once and for all.
Before you go, here are some additional resources around TMs and intellectual property:
- When TMs jump the shark
- Trademarks and translation
- Primer: Translation memory vs. glossary
- 100% text repetitions: To review or not to review
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