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Cabanellas, Guillermo (2014). The Legal Environment of Translation.

London and New York: Routledge, pp. 138, £29.99 (pbk). ISBN: 978-1-138-79082-7.

Translation in itself is governed by a complex and unique set of rules that regulate both its intellectual and practical aspects and the law which governs translation is found in a variety of areas ranging from contract to intellectual property and to labour law. Bearing this in mind, Guillermo Cabanellas’ book is essential reading for all those involved in translation and the translation process quite simply because it sets out and clearly explains the overall legal framework in which translation takes place, enabling the reader to gain a comprehensive and comprehensible overview of the rules applicable to translation.

Two particularly positive aspects of this publication are, that, in addition to providing a comparative perspective of the legal issues involved and a guide to relevant national legal rules, it:

1) sets out hypothetical cases with a discussion of the problems raised and suggested solutions, giving explanations of the theoretical structure of the rules under consideration together with a discussion of practical implications and

2) uses both language and methodology that is accessible enough to enable all potential readers of this text to engage with the arguments put forward.

The first chapter gives a brief description of the world’s legal systems and within the context of those different legal systems, the rules applicable to translation are considered and applied. More specifically, and very importantly, this chapter examines how to determine applicable law, considers issues of jurisdiction, explains where special regulations concerning translation can occur and finally, before being rounded off with practical case studies, considers the issue of translations in court.

Chapter two considers comparative and international copyright. It begins by explaining copyright and its legal significance for translators before moving on to consider copyright protection throughout the world and how it is protected within different legal systems. The chapter then focuses on protected works, categories of protected works, works excluded from protection, special categories of works, formal requirements and various other forms of intellectual property all of which should be of interest to those involved in the translation process. As in chapter one, the topics covered are consolidated by practical case studies which draw the chapter to a close.

Chapter three builds upon the issues covered in the previous chapter by remaining within the sphere of intellectual property, but this time examining the copyright protection of translation. This is done by first considering the basic rules of copyright as they are applied to translation before then looking at the legal concept of translation, the right of translation, ownership of copyright in translation, the legal content of copyright in translation and issues concerning protection and infringement of copyright.

In chapter four the protection of translations by confidentiality falls to be considered. More specifically this chapter covers the functions of confidentiality in the area of translation, explains the difficulties which can occur with terminology used in this context, examines confidentiality protection throughout the world and considers how confidential information can be protected through the mediums of unfair competition law, criminal law, contract law and under the rules of privacy. The protection afforded from other areas of law such as tort and labour law is also explained and, as previously, the chapter is brought to a close with appropriate case studies.

Chapter five may be of particular interest to practising translators as it sets out the protection afforded to translations and translators by labour law. The chapter begins by setting labour law and its applicability to translation in context before going on to consider the translator as an employee, intellectual property rights in translations produced by employees, rights in confidential information in the context of employment relationships and lastly, employer – employee competition. Again the information provided is reinforced with practical examples.

Chapter six draws the book to a close by examining contracts related to translation. This chapter is likely to be of specific interest to those translators who work on a freelance or contractual basis as, not surprisingly, as the title of the chapter would suggest; it looks at the contractual framework of translation. This is done by considering the issues of negotiating and entering into an agreement, agreements related to translation, contractual provisions on payment for translation work, breach of contract, and dispute resolution amongst other things.

In short, this publication is one of a kind and is undoubtedly essential reading for postgraduate students of Translation Studies, translators no matter what area of translation they work in, translation project managers and indeed all those who are involved in the process of translation per se.


Sue Lilley
London Metropolitan University and City University, London