Canadian Journal of Law and Technology


Francie Gow


Translation memory databases


Translation memory databases (compilations of texts linked with their translations) can be valuable resources in the process of translating subsequent texts. This article explores the circumstances under which such compilations might be considered sufficiently original to attract copyright protection that is independent of any copyright already subsisting in the underlying translations and source texts. Various characteristics of the tools and the translation industry in general make the analysis highly fact-specific; whether particular translation memory databases attract protection, and, if so, who can claim to be their ‘‘authors’’, must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Any protection that is granted may be significantly restricted by the competing layers of copyright in the contents of the database. Ultimately, granting protection at the database level does little to promote the goals of copyright law. Reforms of the translation industry’s traditional business model are recommended to enable a greater pooling of linguistic resources among translation professionals without prejudice to their clients’ legitimate interests in protecting confidential information and benefiting economically from their property rights.