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Barriers to the free flow of data have various causes: the legal uncertainty surrounding the emerging issues on ‘data ownership’ or control, (re)usability and access to/transfer of data, and liability arising from the use of data.

There is a similar feeling of uncertainty in the translation industry, where language data are in great demand. This white paper is therefore intended to provide essential help for everyone who is actively involved in translation management or producing translations.

Chances are that you are sharing your translations, for instance by using cloud-based translation tools with integrated MT engines, as well as by exchanging translation memory files in email attachments and through file transfer. This is the very nature of the business. But from a legal point of view, does this matter?

Questions around privacy of language data are becoming particularly pressing now that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are playing such a major role in business processes of all kinds. Buyers and providers of language related services find themselves increasingly working in not-business-as-usual circumstances: annotation, validation, crawling, clustering and the cleaning of voice and text data are becoming as important as traditional translation work.

We are entering uncharted territory here. Which use cases are legitimate and which are unlawful? Are language data a proprietary good, and if so who owns what under which legal regime?

This white paper explains some international concepts of intellectual property law and data protection laws and applies them to language data and to the realities as we experience them in our daily practice.


Wouter Seinen is a partner in the Firm's IP/IT & Commercial Practice Group in Amsterdam. He has significant experience in assisting national and international clients with respect to issues concerning ownership and protection of electronic data. Seinen has a particular interest in all internet-related issues on the subject of intellectual property rights. Moreover, he has a record in IT and outsourcing transactions, with a particular focus on business process outsourcing. He is also a keen negotiator and litigator.