Poland Rules on LSP using Google Translate; Defines ‘professional translator’

A Polish court has set a kind of precedent by weighing in on the use of free machine translation (MT) tools like Google Translate and what constitutes a “professional translator”.

the decisionrendered last summer, was minuted on February 8, 2021 article written by Wojciech Woloszyklawyer-linguist and CEO of a legal translation specialist URIDIC. Woloszyk was called as an expert witness by the court.

To Woloszyk’s knowledge, this is the first Polish judgment referring to a free machine translation tool in the context of privacy, intellectual property rights and liability of a language service provider (LSP) in supervising the quality of a translator’s work.


In 2013, a language service provider sued a client to obtain payment for the translation of a book from Polish to English. The client had refused to pay the language service provider, claiming that the translation had not only been delivered very late, but also of such poor quality that a second LSP had to be hired to do the job properly.

The LSP had hired a translator who did 92% of the translation using Google Translate, post-editing the output (i.e. PEMT or MTPE). The remaining 8% were translated using a translation productivity tool (CAT). (At the time, the translator was a fifth-year computer science student who had won a national high school English competition.)

The LSP and the client had agreed that the translation would be done, as Woloszyk explained, “by a professional translator and edited by a native speaker”, who had special knowledge in the field, and “the result of the translation was supposed to be suitable for professional use. use.”

In his testimony as an expert witness, Woloszyk said that the translation provided by the LSP requester had “many linguistic errors, some parts not being translated”, and that the end result was, fundamentally, not what that one would expect from a text intended for publication. The court agreed with Woloszyk, dismissed the case and ordered the LSP to pay the court costs. The case is currently on appeal.

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As Woloszyk eloquently pointed out, “Even if the profession of translator (who is not a certified/sworn translator) has not been regulated by the Polish legislator, this does not mean that every person who a translation in exchange for money can be called a professional translator.The fact that there is no legal definition does not open the way to unlimited freedom of appreciation in the interpretation of a given concept .

In its ruling, the court concluded that the person the PSL hired to do the translation could not be considered a professional translator. The court stated that a professional translator must (a) have appropriate academic training in translation techniques; (b) know the translation rules; and (c) have practical experience and in-depth knowledge in the field of the translation task.

Additionally, if the LSP was aware that a free machine translation tool was being used for the task, the court said it could mean “a gross breach of professional practice and possible infringement” of the client’s intellectual property rights.

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Slator reached out to Kimon Fountoukidis, founder and president of Krakow-based LSP Argos Multilingual, for his views on the decision. He said: “MT has come a long way since 2013,” when the translation in question was first delivered – “and so have Google’s terms and conditions. Current paid access to GT allows us to protect our customers’ data.

We also asked Krzysztof Zdanowski, CEO of Poland-based LSP Summa Linguae Technologies, about the business implications of such a move. He said, “I think it could impact the local market in two ways, both of which I think are very positive,” summarized as follows.

  • Education of customers and language service providers – According to Zdanowski, buyers and language service providers could “finally be educated about what professional machine translation really is. Automatic translation is not limited to the use of Google [Translate] and have a translator edit the result. Most have experienced it, but only a handful know what it really takes to choose the right engine – public or perhaps custom – to assess MT output, train and retrain engines, and integrate them into workflows .
  • Motivation of language service providers to provide professional assistance – Customers may become familiar with machine translation, wishing to benefit from it, while language service providers “will be driven to provide professional assistance in machine translation”.

Zdanowski told Slator, “I find the local market extremely ignorant and this case proves my point. Local LSPs tend to freestyle with the public TM. I hope this case will put machine translation in the spotlight, push language service providers to offer professional machine translation services, and make it less of a taboo for customers. »

He added: “Unfortunately this thing got very little attention in Poland – only a small group of industry peers noticed it.”

The Fountoukidis of Argos seems to confirm this point of view. He said, “A lot of noise as far as I’m concerned.”