Rebuilding Babel: Copyright and the Future of Machine Translation Online

26 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2006


Machine translation (MT) is computer technology that translates human languages. The legal implications of machine translation have yet to be considered by legal scholars or technologists because the technology, in its current state, is too far from usable to create actual legal problems. I predict that if MT ever evolves to "good enough," it will create massive copyright infringement on an unprecedented global scale. I argue that MT, specifically online MT, needs to be protected from litigation because it is socially, politically, and commercially beneficial. Online MT has the power to revolutionize communication by eliminating language barriers, bridge the gap between different cultures, provide services to minority language speakers, and transform global e-commerce by allowing even the smallest online vendor to serve the international market. I argue for protection through the creation of effective licenses and statutory clarification of online MT's noninfringing nature.

Keywords: machine translation, copyright, infringement

JEL Classification: K01, K12

Suggested Citation

Ketzan, Erik, Rebuilding Babel: Copyright and the Future of Machine Translation Online. Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property, Spring 2007, Available at SSRN:

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