The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


I'd Like a Real Translation, Please


From ABC Corp. v. Partnerships & Unincorporated Ass'ns Identified on Schedule A (one of the many recently filed cases involving alleged mass copyright infringement by apparently off-shore businesses), decided Dec. 19 by Judge Joan Gottschall (N.D. Ill.) but just posted to Westlaw:

Before the court is plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed temporarily under a pseudonym and for leave to file under seal the complaint, the accompanying exhibits, plaintiff's Local Rule 3.2 notice of affiliates, and its anticipated motion for a temporary restraining order. Plaintiff relies heavily on translations of a Chinese-language website to support its motion. One of plaintiff's attorneys created these translations using the Microsoft Edge web browser's automatic translation service. There is no indication that anyone with knowledge of the Chinese language reviewed the computer-generated translations created by plaintiff's lawyer. The Chinese-to-English translations plaintiff has filed are therefore inadmissible under the "well-established rule that a document in a foreign language is generally inadmissible unless accompanied by a certified English translation."

Additionally, questions of a translation's reliability and accuracy go to its weight and credibility rather than its admissibility. The court does not know what the emphasized portion of the following passage means: "TWO NEW BRANDS FILED! A POPULAR ANIMATION AND AN ILLUSTRATION WORK, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FACT THAT IT IS NOT FROZEN AND QUICKLY REMOVE THE SHELF TO WITHDRAW CASH." Two additional examples are: (1) "GBC AGENT GENERAL MOTORS A NEW WAVE OF CASES TO ATTACK, GMC TRADEMARK RIGHTS PROTECTION, JUST OCCURRED, SELLERS PAY ATTENTION TO VIEW!" and (2) "HSP AGENT CASIO, HAS NOT YET BEGUN TO FREEZE, THE SELLER QUICKLY CHECKED AND REMOVED!" What these statements mean is not apparent and has not been explained. These statements could indicate either that the translation is unreliable or that the translation is reliable, but the website is ambiguous in context.

Because plaintiff relies on inadmissible and potentially unreliable translations of foreign-language documents, its motion for leave to proceed temporarily under a pseudonym and for leave to file certain documents under seal is denied without prejudice. Plaintiff may renew its motion on or before January 3, 2023, and may proceed under a pseudonym until the court rules on its renewed motion. All documents filed provisionally under seal shall remain sealed until the court rules on plaintiff's anticipated renewed motion to seal.

Plaintiffs apparently remedied the problem, and the court did issue a preliminary injunction; plaintiff was also allowed to proceed temporarily under pseudonym until seven days after a temporary restraining order was issued, and has now been identified as Sega of America, Inc.