NEC TM Framework Agreements: Helping public administrations making most of outsourcing translations

2020-07-08

One of the key challenges faced by public administrations across Europe was how to obtain and secure the use of translation memories produced by external providers. Until recently, all efforts undertaken by national authorities to gather data from translation contracts had been thwarted by several factors including legal vacuum, IP uncertainty and technical shortcomings. The NEC TM project (www.nec-tm.eu), however, managed to address this problem successfully by developing a framework agreement that public administrations could refer to when asking for bilingual TMX files in a translation contract.

When outsourcing translations, many public administrations faced - and are still facing - a stumbling block: translation houses provide the service and deliver the translated documents in electronic format, but they usually do not include the corresponding translation memory files (in TMX format) in the final delivery. It is common practice for them to use CAT tools to improve translators’ productivity by keeping track of terminology to ensure overall consistency and standardise the style. At the end of the CAT process, translation memories are created and those perfectly aligned sentences corpora could be very valuable for machine learning. However, these very valuable data are kept in silos, typically on TM servers at the subcontractor’s local or cloud - and nobody can benefit from them

So far, the Intellectual Property (IP) issue has always clouded TMX ownership: a translation is a so-called derivative work, i.e. it would not exist without the original. And clearly, the translation company has entered into a contract to provide translation services (i.e. derivative work) to its contractor. So why would they only share the translation and not the translation memory (TM)?

Ana Fernández, Legal Team, Pangeanic

A strong legal team led by Mrs Ana Fernández ran a thorough study European IP common law, translation services requirements and IP issues in the translation industry. Their work resulted in a corresponding framework agreement that can now be used as a reference by national authorities to request bilingual material from translation contracts. This framework agreement will not only improve national language policies, but also facilitate the collection of aligned bilingual data. The NEC TM Framework Agreement can be found in all EU official languages on the project’s website: https://www.nec-tm.eu/framework-agreement/.

Together with the software delivery (the database), NEC TM also provides a solid set of tools and legal cover for all public administrations to centralise bilingual assets resulting from public procurement, thus helping administrations become more digital and agile. The NEC TM server offers different levels of security, includes plugins to major CAT tools and provides a connection to ELRC, allowing data owners to share the data they want to share.