Who owns a translation memory – a customer or the service provider?

We were approached this week by a company, who wanted clarification of accepted practices of the language services industry regarding translation memories.  The agency they were using demanded an extra fee for giving them access to the translation memory. In Poland , client awareness of this issue is a fairly new topic and given that a lot of translation is done by freelancers not necessarily using technology (with varying degrees of success), there is no consensus, but we would argue that professional ethics and discretion should play a key role. In thinking about the subject, we read this post on linguist.com .Does the client own the memory? It is their source text and they commissioned the translation, so surely the memory belongs to them? What about the translation agency- it was their skill, investment in software and hard work that went in to compiling the memory and for many agencies, the translation memory is a separate asset, which they have the rights to. Is it ethical, then, for  the provider to use that memory for other client work or should they keep Chinese walls between the terminology banks used for one job and those used for another client. If a company thinks up a new approach to a subject, its author may not want that terminology leaking out straight away to a competitor through reuse of phraseology in a translated text. Some clients, particularly lawyers, are reluctant to have third parties plagiarizing their texts, and so object to the idea of reuse of memories. There are agencies which reuse client memories for similar jobs and others which do not do so. We would be keen to hear your views.

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