If you go to a live concert, you cannot expect to get a CD or a DVD of that concert for free simply because you bought a ticket. Simultaneous interpretation is somewhat similar.
Simultaneous interpreters, actually, are very similar to professional singers – they mostly work for themselves, are highly trained, sign one time contracts, travel extensively worldwide and, boy, do they sing! Imagine speaking on a variety of extremely complex technical topics in several languages for a full day for 100-200 days per year.
Simultaneous interpretation at a conference is a product of many years of training and interpreters hone their skills constantly.
Every time a request to record interpreter voices comes up, there are several considerations and practices that clients need to be aware of. Here are just a few we try to adhere to:
- Just like artists or sculptors, interpreters may be considered creators of original work and it may be protected by copyright laws. The International Copyright Convention and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Artistic and Literary Works also have a role to play.
- The daily rate conference interpreters charge is for the interpretation provided for the live audience at a given event, it is what is called “for immediate consumption.” Any other use of the interpreter’s voice or image is a different product.
- It is at freelance interpreters’ discretion if they want to charge an additional fee for recording and it may vary between 30% and 100% of the daily rate depending on the language combination and difficulty of the topic.
- “Recording” may, actually, include live broadcast or webcast as well. So, it is more correct to speak about “recording and broadcast” fees.
- The fee may depend on the use of the interpretation. Is it commercial i.e. for profit? Will it be used only inside the client organization? Will access to it be free of charge or behind a paywall? All these issues need to be considered in advance.
- No matter what, interpreters cannot be recorded without their knowledge and written consent. Doing so may be considered a serious legal violation. Clients and technicians need to be aware of it and a delegate cannot just bring a recording device in the interpreters’ booth and place it there. In that case, interpreters may simply say:”It is not in our contracts!”
- Contracts with clients need to include very clearly defined clauses about how and why recording will be done and specify appropriate remuneration.
- Interpreters can sign release/consent forms or licenses that state that they are aware their voices will be recorded and they consent to it. Appropriate fee may also be specified in the form.
- The “Memorandum concerning the use of recordings of interpretation at conferences” issued by AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters, warns that “[c]onference interpretation is an oral intellectual exercise, quite distinct from drafting a written text. Any attempt to put the content of recording of conference interpretation into written form, without considerable preliminary editing, can only yield questionable results. There is no known instance of spoken language being completely transferable into acceptable written form. It is therefore recommended that professional minute writers or translators be used to do the editing required.”
Because of that, conference organizers may not simply publish a transcript of simultaneous interpretation without professional editing. Moreover, a written text may be considered a different product as well, subject to copyrights and fees.
- We also need to take into consideration, that simultaneous interpretation is very stressful and tiring, that is why at least 2 interpreters are needed who work in 20-30 minute shifts. If you know you are being recorded and/or broadcast, it adds even more responsibility and fatigue. In these circumstances, it is only fair if interpreters are compensated properly.
Understanding the complex practices in advance of the conference is in the best interests of both the conference organizers and the interpreters and guarantees a trouble free event.