First-time posters: please review the site's moderation policy

I've always understood that an interpreter's work is considered to be an "artistic creation" and as such is his property and protected by copyright (cf. the WIPO on copyright).

In practice, this might translate into a situation where clients are charged an extra 5-10% for the right to record the interpretation for later use.

What is your practice? Do you allow recording? If so, do you charge extra? Do you make the extra charge dependent on what use will be made of your recording (e.g. internal use for minutes vs posting on a website)?

asked 23 Nov '11, 11:04

Michelle's gravatar image


edited 28 Nov '11, 04:30

Delete's gravatar image

Delete ♦

I've just seen a similar question has been asked in Spanish, but I'd like to keep this question in English and see what replies I get.

(23 Nov '11, 11:07) Michelle

I'll answer on Sunday after our workshop in Nied. One of the topics is "copyright" ;-)

(23 Nov '11, 13:03) Angela

On principle I insist on being asked and on asking everyone in the team, who is/might be recorded.

  • If it is for internal recording/archiving purposes or the minutes only, I don't charge anything.
  • If it is to be broadcasted or published online, I insist on having my name / the names of the interpreters, whose voices can be heard, published as well (which is easier, when the recording is for a website, of course).
  • When the recording is for educational purposes, or (excerpts of) presentations etc. are used as promotional material, e.g. on a dvd, which is not sold but given away (as a "goody") or distributed to interested target groups in order to attract a greater audience for the next edition of a regular conference or event, I don't charge anything (unless I know that there is a budget for such payments anyway).
  • If radio reporters record in order to have a backup for a reportage later, for which they usually use the original version only, I don't charge anything.
  • I do charge, though, when the recording is made by TV or radio stations, or for internet (live) streaming purposes or films which will be sold or otherwise commercialized. In practice I ask the editor in charge, whether and when the translation will be used and we agree on the payment of a copyright fee (usually 1 daily rate per booth concerned), if our work is broadcasted/published. I usually trust the media people, and have not been disappointed so far.
  • For press conferences I don't charge extra, because the intention of press conferences is the publication of what is being said. However, I still want to know who uses the interpreted version of what is said. In other words, it depends on the context and also one the financial liquidity of the client.

Sometimes, allowing a client to record and use what they record is an extra service that enhances customer loyalty towards me and my team (let's be realistic). More important than the money is the recognition that what we do in the booth is creative and extremely valuable and requires a major qualification, and should, thus, not simply be "grabbed" and anonymously published. And I want to know before the rest of the world, when and where people can here my voice and interpreting performance.

Sorry for the long answer. There are so many options and circumstances in this line of business, I feel. And I am also really interested in knowing how others deal with this question. Also, because I am not sure where we stand between copyright protection and creative commons.

permanent link

answered 23 Nov '11, 16:30

LiA's gravatar image


edited 03 Apr '12, 11:15

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

I charge between 50-100 % of a daily remuneration for recording. I prefer not to be recorded. The remuneration is also meant to discourage the recording.

The remuneration depends on

  • purpose of the recording (internal, transcription, CD, internet, radio, TV)
  • economical value of the recording (e.g. millions of possible clients on the internet)
  • beneficiaries of the recording (number and type)
  • the attitude of the client: If I find out afterwards that my voice was recorded, I charge more than I would have charged if I had been informed before.

We received information about some aspects of the German legislation at the workshop in Nied on Nov 26 by Birgit Christensen.

I have to continue in German, sorry:

Einige Kriterien, die zu berücksichtigen sind:

  • Das Urheberrecht des Originals bleibt bestehen. Der Kunde sollte also zuerst den Redner fragen, ob er mit der Aufzeichnung einverstanden ist.
  • Der Dolmetscher/Übersetzer hat das Recht mit Namen genannt zu werden (s. Art. 13 UrhG).
  • Bei Pressekonferenzen oder Fernsehaufträgen ist die Aufzeichnung selbstverständlich. Sie sollte bei der Verhandlung des Honorars von Anfang an berücksichtigt werden.
  • Ausnahme: Amtliche Texte (Reden von Amtsträgern zu Hoheitsakten oder Gefahren für die öffentliche Sicherheit, Berichterstattung über Tagesereignisse, bedingt: Nachrichtensendungen..., Art 50 UrhG) stellen zwar oftmals grundsätzlich schutzfähige Werke dar, sind aber gemäß § 5 des deutschen UrhG ausdrücklich aus dem Schutzbereich des Urheberrechts herausgenommen. Trotzdem muss der Dolmetscher/Übersetzer sein Einverständnis für die Verbreitung geben.
  • Es ist den Verwertern nicht erlaubt, Änderungen an dem Werk vorzunehmen, ohne dass der Urheber diesen zugestimmt hätte. Im schlimmsten Fall kann eine Änderung nämlich zu einer Entstellung des Werks führen, was die Persönlichkeitsrechte des Urhebers verletzt.
  • Fest angestellte Dolmetscher/Übersetzer können unter bestimmten Umständen auch ihre Urheberrechte geltend machen.
  • Klare Regelungen erleichtern das Leben: Man kann zwar einen Kunden, der ohne Einverständnis aufzeichnet, auf Schadenersatz verklagen; es ist sinnvoller für die eventuelle Anfertigung von Mitschnitten grundsätzlich eine vertragliche Regelung mit Preisnennung vorzusehen.
  • Ein gutes Verhältnis zum Technikanbieter ist sowohl für den Kunden als auch für den Dolmetscher hilfreich: Die Techniker informieren im allgemeinen die Dolmetscher über die Aufzeichnung und sie können den Kunden vor möglichen Schadenersatzklagen der Dolmetscher warnen.
  • Die Verwenderrechte können auch im Nachhinein verhandelt werden!
  • Im Internet ist es möglich und sinnvoll, einen Hinweis aufzunehmen, wonach das gesprochene Wort des Redners gilt: The interpretation serves to facilitate communication and does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. Only the original speech or the revised written translation is authentic.

Birgit Christensen empfiehlt folgendes Werk von M. Cebulla:

Manuel Cebulla
Das Urheberrecht der Übersetzer und Dolmetscher
ISBN 978-3-86573-319-1
173 S. 23,00 EUR. 2007

Manuel Cebulla, LL.M., hat Wirtschafts- und Medienrecht studiert, ist staatlich geprüfter Übersetzer und verfügt als Dolmetscher und Übersetzer über langjährige Berufserfahrung. Er ist zudem Fachprüfer, Dozent und Autor.

permanent link

answered 01 Dec '11, 08:07

Angela's gravatar image


edited 03 Apr '12, 11:11

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

Two more thoughts on the subject:

As nice as it may be to allow journalists to record the interpretation and not charge for it - as a rule journalists know fully well what copyright fees are and insist on getting their own copyright fees paid ...

Sometimes clients want to record the interpretation "just in case they might need it at a later time" and do not want to pay copyright fees. In such cases that's absolutely fine with me, BUT I agree with the client and the technician that the head interpreter of the team take the recording and keep it until the client decides whether he needs it. If so, he may then pay the copyright fee at a later time and get the recording. It is advisable to agree on a maximum time for which the recording should be saved by the head interpreter.

permanent link

answered 17 Apr '12, 18:58

AlmuteL's gravatar image


I also differentiate according to the purpose of the recording, and of course it makes a difference whether the client only needs some help for the minutes or actually broadcasts my voice. However, recording obviously is an added value for the client - otherwise they wouldn't take the trouble arranging for it. I do not charge for the recording if the client does not use my translation for a verbatim transcription of the meeting. But I always charge when my voice is broadcast - at press conferences, public events, in internet streams etc. And the honorarium for TV assignments automatically includes a copyright fee - at least when you work for a public channel in Germany. That is one of the reasons why TV honoraria are usually higher than honoraria for other short assignments.

permanent link

answered 03 Apr '12, 11:02

Angie's gravatar image


I do as Vincent and others have explained, i.e. free of charge if recording is for internal use, copyright if it is for public use (between 10 and 25% of the daily fee; I have never heard of anything below 10%), sizable increase in remuneration if it is for commercial use, percentage depending not only on the actual intended use but also on the scale of the project.

For very large projects, like the Universal Forum of Cultures Barcelona 2004, which represented 4700 int./days over 5 months, I had no less than 5 lawyers in front of me to discuss both the concept of interpreters’ copyright and the percentage involved... After months of discussion, as nobody had budgeted for this item, we agreed on the following:

The interpreter ceded its copyright on an exclusive basis provided that the use was merely for internal purposes. Payment was included in his remuneration.

The interpreter also ceded, on an exclusive basis, the right of copy, sound recording or audiovisual recording and transcription of the interpretations through any television channels, radio stations, Internet or any other broadcast media, against 10% of his daily fee.

In exchange the organization was to include in the broadcast media, and specifically in webcasting, a legal disclaimer of responsibility, whereby it indicated that the interpreter declined any responsibility for any errors or omissions that may occur in the interpretation etc…

In a more recent project, involving 50 interpreters, I have included a 25% increase on daily fee for webcast (+ disclaimer). Not all sessions will be webcast but copyright will be paid across the board, as it would be a nightmare to trace which sessions (and which teams) are being webcast, as sessions and teams change every 90 minutes ;-) BTW, that part was a nightmare at the Forum (tracing who was entitled to copyright and when, as there were several rooms in parallel almost every day).

Whatever the percentage, which may vary depending on the market, the economic situation, the size of the project and our negotiating abilities, I believe copyright should always be charged if for public use.

permanent link

answered 18 Apr '12, 12:54

Danielle's gravatar image


I think there is a widespread misunderstanding regarding recordings and their associated rights of use, maybe due to the fact that conference interpreters are not media experts and therefore are not acquainted with the actual value of a recording.

A recording is a different product from the interpretation hence should be charged additionally. Now, what is the actual value of the recording? I would say, at least the value of the written translation if the recording is intended to be used internally, for instance, to write the minutes of a conference.

Let’s assume only the original (floor) is recorded but not the interpretation. If afterwards the client wishes to have the minutes in different languages, they would obviously have the original soundtrack transcribed and translated into as many languages as needed. Here is real calculation basis for this purpose:

1 minute of speech in German at a normal speed contains approx. 900 characters (150 words). 1 hour conference equals 54,000 characters or 9,000 words. Let’s assume a translation from German into the required foreign language costs EUR 0.17 per word. The translation cost of the transcript for 1 hour conference would be 9,000 x 0.17 = EUR 1,530.

Why would you like to give away a recording (a translation, in the end) to your client at no cost, even if it is for internal use or even if your client just wants to record the interpretation "just in case they might need it at a later time"? I can’t think of any reason… Try going to a book-shop and tell the seller you would like to take a book for free because, hey, you don’t know at this stage if you are going to use it. And even if you someday read the book, it’ll just be for internal purposes, so no need to pay for it.

If the client can’t afford the recording (and/or the translation of the transcript) and they would like to have the minutes of the conference, I would always encourage them to have an employee (or several employees, depending on the languages needed) taking notes during the conference, which is, of course, free.

Logically, the value of the recording will be higher if is not for internal use. Your recording may be used to produce an image or corporate film to be distributed publicly on the Internet. Or it may be used to produce training materials and then sold at a higher price. All these cases have a price tag. It is not advisable (and not a common practice among media experts and producers in Europe) to sell a product with a “copyright fee”. There is no such a thing as a “copyright fee” – a copyright fee for what? What you sell is a right for a clearly defined use (i.e. you charge a fee for a “right of use”). Different uses of the same recording should have different prices, which are mainly determined by three aspects: the region (city, country), the channel (Internet, POS, trade fair, TV, DVD, etc.) and the period of use (1 year, 2 years, unlimited in time). Please refer to any media experts or producers in your country to find out what the usual fees are for the different uses.

As for the German market, I recently did a presentation on the DfD conference summarising the widely accepted fees in Germany for some frequent cases. You can take a look at the presentation with notes here (in German).

permanent link

answered 21 Jul '16, 03:07

Delete's gravatar image

Delete ♦

edited 21 Jul '16, 08:00

Does a recording of someone’s interpretation really have the same value as the translation of a transcript? I would say both are different products because translation and interpretation are not synonymous.

(22 Jul '16, 20:32) mflorian

Hi Florian! You're right, both are different products, but they can serve the same purpose (for instance, the described case in which client wishes to have a recording for the minutes of the conference; that equals a translation). Actually, the value of a recording should be much higher than the value of the corresponding translation, since a recording features not only the "translation" itself but also the interpreter's voice and an artistic component. That means that a recording could be used for many different things such as the production of image or corporate films. So let's say that, in many cases, the value of a recording would be = translation value + voice-over value.

If you disagree, what would be in your opinion the value of a recording for internal purposes? And a recording that is used to produce a short corporate video? And what about the recording of a session that is offered online to the public for a subscription fee?

(23 Jul '16, 05:13) Delete ♦

...I would only add that the addition/insertion of a disclaimer should always be asked for,contractually if possible, whenever interpretation is going to be used other than right there and right then :-)

permanent link

answered 23 Nov '11, 23:34

msr's gravatar image


Disclaimer: It depends on your national legislation. It's often neither possible (technically) nor necessary and even counterproductive. As explained in another post about professional liability in Germany, the liability for "ad hoc services" is very limited.

(25 Nov '11, 10:44) Angela

:-) I beg to differ, Angela: it's always possible (when there's a will...), to my mind always necessary and never counter-productive, irrespective of legislations - legal liability for "ad-hoc services" is one thing, educating the public and having a "published text" to fall back on is another

(22 Jan '12, 07:20) msr

(sorry, it went live before it should have) liability for "ad-hoc services" is one thing, educating the public and having a "published text" to fall back on is another :-)

(22 Jan '12, 07:22) msr
Your answer
toggle preview

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Markdown Basics

  • *italic* or _italic_
  • **bold** or __bold__
  • link:[text]( "title")
  • image?![alt text](/path/img.jpg "title")
  • numbered list: 1. Foo 2. Bar
  • to add a line break simply add two spaces to where you would like the new line to be.
  • basic HTML tags are also supported

Question tags:


question asked: 23 Nov '11, 11:04

question was seen: 14,794 times

last updated: 23 Jul '16, 05:14 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

about | faq | terms of use | privacy policy | content policy | disclaimer | contact us

This collaborative website is sponsored and hosted by AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters.