Translators' rights, according to UNESCO

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This is a summary of translator rights by UNESCO. Issues concerning translators' rights in general should be detailed in a separate article.

The UNESCO Recommendation on the Legal Protection of Translators and Translations and the Practical Means to improve the Status of Translators, published on 22 November 1976, proposes various rights for translators. The proposals apply only to paid translators, whether full-time or part-time, whether salaried or independent contractors, and whether the translation is published or not. Some rights apply only to some types of translators, though.



All translators have the right to the same protection as authors in terms of the Berne Convention on copyright matters.

Written agreements

All translators have the right to a written agreement between him and the client.

  • A translator's contract must mention the working languages, and it must specifically say if the translator will be expected to act as an interpreter.
  • Translators have the right to adequate remuneration. Translators have the right to advance payment (partial or in full) (not applicable to salaried translators). Translators have the right to additional payment, if the translation is used for additional purposes than stated in the original agreement. Translators alone (or someone appointed by the translator) may authorise such additional uses. Translators may not revoke rights they've granted to clients. Translators must not do things that compromise the interests of clients, and translators should maintain confidentiality.
  • If a translation is intended for publication, no changes may be made to it without the translator's consent. In published translations, translators should be given the same measure of publicity as the original author.
  • Clients are responsible for getting authorisation to have the translation done. Clients must also ensure that the necessary copyright notices appear on the translation.
  • Both translators and clients have the right to impartial, accessible and inexpensive arbitration, particularly with regard to disputes about the quality of the translation.

Translator trade unions

Governments of countries where translators translate, have the duty to encourage and promote the creation of translator trade unions which propose model contracts and collective agreements.

Translator associations

Governments of countries where translators translate, have the duty to encourage and promote the creation of translator associations that define the rules and duties of the profession, defend the interests of translators, facilitate linguistic, cultural, scientific and technical exchanges among translators, and undertake certain activities:

  • Write official translation standards to promote quality translation
  • Study aspects of remuneration
  • Perform or suggest methods for dispute resolution
  • Write model contracts for translators and teach translators to negotiate
  • Get access to public or private funding usually aimed at authors
  • Publish stuff for translators and arrange meetings of translators
  • Help translators get the same public benefits and duties as authors
  • Train translators or establish training facilities for translators
  • Meet with other local or international bodies that promote the interests of translators
  • Defend the interests of translators with clients and organisations for clients
  • Anything else that might help develop the translating profession.

Translators always have the right to legal protection even if they choose not to join a translator association.

Social security

Non-salaried translators have the right to be treated the same and have the same rights and duties as non-salaried authors with regard to public services and benefits. Salaried translators have the right to be treated the same and have the same rights and duties as any salaried worker, with regard to public services and benefits. Salaried translators who are specialists in their field, have the right to be acknowledged as such in their contracts with employers.

Translator training

Governments of countries where translators translate, must acknowledge that the education of translators is different from general language training, and should encourage the creation of appropriate training facilities. Those governments must organise terminology centres to inform translators of terminology required by them in the general course of their work and. Such terminology centres should collaborate with similar centres worldwide to develop and standardise terminology. Those governments must also permit translator associations to organise translator exchanges with other countries.

Other rights

Translators have the right to reasonable time to complete the translation. They have the right to access information necessary to understand the text and do the translation. Translators have the right to access the original text, if available, in cases where translation of a translation is done. Translators have the duty to translate only into languages that they speak as well as their native language.

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