It is important to explain what copyright means before we proceed with establishing a connection between copyright and translation. Copyright means that any content or book or music which is your creation is rightfully yours. The author of the original content holds the right to publish, sell, distribute copies, get his work translated or to carry out an enactment of the content he has written. He also can prevent other people from doing the same and the law will be on his side. Copyright laws are made by every country to safeguard the rights of the original authors.
Copyright laws were made, so that people who try to sell or publish or make copies of someone else’s original content can be brought to justice. Piracy is a huge problem which today’s world is facing. Original books, articles, music or lyrics are stolen by pirates. Lots of original content available on the internet is spun by writers everyday. Therefore laws were made to protect the original works of authors and musicians etc. Even the translation of a work, published without the permission of its original author and its translator is unlawful and illegal. Unauthorized publication or use of an original piece of work can be challenged by the author in any court of law.
The language translator who translates the original content of any writer owns the copyright as well. When a translator is asked to translate a content by the author (who owns the copyright), he himself creates something original and new. This implies that an original English to German translation carried out by a German translator will have its copyright too. Copyright laws vary a little from country to country. Translations done in South Korea from Korean to English will be protected by the law of South Korea. The country in which a translator translates some content is liable for providing copyright protection to the work of the translator. A translator himself is an original writer of the translated version and is considered as such.
It is the decision of the translator to sign away his translation or not. Often translators give up their copyright ownership. Its a personal choice of a translator to do away with the copyright ownership of his work or to claim it. But it might be a little bit different for the translators who work for translation services companies. It depends on what was mentioned on the contract when the translator signed it with the translation agency. But in most cases, its the translator who owns the copyright since he/she is the original creator of the translated content.
Translation and copyright have a close relation with each other. Only few people know that a translator holds the status of second author of the original piece. Even the translator who finally reviews the translated version before it reaches the client, owns the copyright too.