Interpreters Wonder How to Charge for Recorded Remote Simultaneous Interpreting

Remote Simultaneous Interpreters Debate Charging Recording Fees

Remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) exploded during the Covid pandemic after meetings and conferences were forced to go virtual. Clients flocked to RSI providers sooner than they might have otherwise, and companies such as KUDO and Interactio flourished.

For all of the success these businesses have recently achieved, the long-term impact on interpreters, and the profession at large, is yet to be seen. In a series of June 10, 2021 tweets, Giovanna Lester, a conference interpreter and President of the Brazilian Association of Translators and Interpreters, asked colleagues for their take on at least one new challenge surrounding RSI.

#RSI client tells agency they are not going to record the interpretation, no recording fee needed. Cool. Today, the agency contacts me to review work of the live captioning team on my and my boothmate’s interpretation,” Lester wrote. “How can we handle that?”

Manchester-based conference interpreter Jan Rausch replied, “I guess the most obvious thing to do is charge a recording fee now as you have evidence you were recorded. The next question is whether you want to take action because you were recorded without consent.”

Maha El-Metwally suggested charging the client in exchange for reviewing the content. “As opposed to meeting minutes & verbatim reports, closed captions are going to be there every time the event is re-used,” El-Metwally explained. “One more change #terps need to deal with in the #r1nt realm!”

UK-based legal interpreter and translator Sue Leschen told Slator that, since the pandemic, interpreters have been forced to confront this aspect of assignments more often.

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“If we are on-site, it is much more likely that we will be aware that a recording is happening and in a better position, compared to if we are doing remote interpreting, to negotiate terms and conditions,” Leschen said. “Off-site we may not even be aware that we are being recorded.”

Leschen, a non-practicing solicitor, posited that an interpreter recorded without consent might be able to sue for breaches of intellectual property, property rights, and confidentiality. Her company, Avocate, often presents online workshops to professional organizations, such as the ITI Interpreters’ Development Network, to guide members in drafting terms and conditions for remote interpreting.

Other Side of the Coin

In a June 2021 poll on LinkedIn, Madrid-based audiovisual event services company ASTL asked language service providers and end-clients, “Do we have to pay performers [interpreters] royalties when we hire them for streaming or when we record sessions?”

Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that interpreters must be paid in such cases (70%), but over a quarter (26%) said their answer would depend on the type of assignment.

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Jorge Casado, CEO of Audiovisual Line Servicios de Comunicación, another audiovisual service provider, was among the small minority of respondents (4%) who questioned the validity of additional charges for recorded interpreting.

“Copyright? Rights of what?” Casado asked. “Is it as if I copy a book already written but I do it in another language and I get the [rights]?” He added, “It is not clear to me that performers should be paid ‘copyright’ to a work that they do not own, but that they are participating in an additional service of the project.”

Conference interpreter Vicente Abella Aranda wrote, “It depends on the use that is going to be made of the recording. Streaming, if not recorded for later use, does not have to be charged extra (thinking exclusively of copyright).”

RSI platform Interactio, which manages a database of remote interpreters for project-based assignments, informs interpreters before recording their interpretation — but these interpreters do not add on charges for intellectual property rights, such as recordings. If a client requests a transcription, a separate team of linguists transcribes the interpretation on a per-minute basis.

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“We have never had issues negotiating with interpreters on transcribing, captioning, or recording,” Interactio representative Laura Inamedinova told Slator.

To ensure that both sides are on the same page before an assignment, legal linguist Leschen generally recommends that interpreters include specific terms and conditions in their contracts, or even draft a separate contract, to address questions related to recording.

“No set rates currently exist and it is up to each interpreter to negotiate either a set fee or a percentage of the total fee and to consider the issue of royalties for repeated use of any recordings,” she said.