Re-publication on the www: freelance writers defend copyright

A quick look at the US-based National Writers Union website shows how one group of fellow freelancers is defending legitimate intellectual property rights in the information age.

While not about interpreting, this site has compelling information for all of us who are concerned about our legitimate intellectual property rights in the new web-world.

A click on will take you to the homepage of the National Writers Union, an AFL-CIO affiliate in the United States. The NWU is a union of freelance writers and therein lies the connection to us: most interpreters are also freelancers.

In 1997 NWU members took legal action to protect themselves against copyright violation of a new kind. The articles and press releases on the NWU site are an excellent introduction to the wider issue of intellectual property rights in the instant world of the Internet.

After losing in District Court in 1997, the writers won on appeal before the Circuit Court in 1999. As the NWU press release stated: "The ruling last fall made clear that it is copyright infringement for a publisher to put a freelancer's work on-line or otherwise reuse or resell it without explicit written permission." The publishers, of course, appealed and in November of 2000 the US Supreme Court announced that it would hear the case. The compelling history a primer on how freelancers can act collectively. Read more about the case here.

The NWU didn't stop with the court victory. Click on "Publication Clearing House" to read how they went on to set up a structure to help writers collect royalties.

"Interpretation on the Internet" is a much-heard phrase these days. But we seem to group many variations under that heading - typing a translation in a chatroom-type environment, actual voice work from a computer, instant transmission on the Internet of interpretation done in a conference room, posting of interpretation in either voice or text format on a website after the fact, etc. As an organisation that has always believed that interpreters hold rights over their work (see our recommended contract stipulations on recording), AIIC must confront the issue and will surely be discussing it at future meetings.

In the meantime, it would be interesting to hear what experiences you, our readers, have had. Have you done voice work on the Internet? Have you ever been informed that your work would be transmitted over the Internet? Have you ever found your work posted on a website? Post a comment and let us know.

Recommended citation format:
Luigi LUCCARELLI. "Re-publication on the www: freelance writers defend copyright". December 27, 2000. Accessed July 7, 2020. <>.

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Priscila Siu


My company provided interpreting services for Gorbachov´s speech when he visited Costa Rica. We had a clause in the contract to include a "by-line" in both TV and Internet broadcastings. The client accepted the clause, but the TV did not show the names and I was unable to check on the Internet because the downloading did not work.

Although my initiative did not have any concrete results, I believe it was a good idea, and that eventually, customers will honor their contracts (sigh!)

Priscila Siu

Conf Interpreter

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ulla schneider


thank you, Luigi, for bringing this article to our attention! this matter in my view should be one of aiic's priorities. it's been around for years but no results seem to be forthcoming. suffice it to think of medical conferences, where tapes of our interpretation are actually sold in the lobby.

kind regards,

ulla schneider

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Manuel Sant'Iago Ribeiro


During the EU portuguese presidency (1st half of 2000)interpreters were told that all press conferences after formal meetings (all taking place in a special dedicated conference room, at the presidency's headquarters in Lisbon)would be broadcast over the net, along with the interpretation therof (anything from 3 to 6 languages)...although we were told that this would only remain "up in the ether" for the duration of said meetings, I was later told that they were all still there for the world to hear.

Whereas the former could be construed as merely tantamount to a larger audience sitting in a larger virtual conference room...the latter does raise some serious issues(ie de-contextualisation)that at least in the EU sphere our Delegations might want to try and tackle...

good luck!



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