Non-compete agreements for freelance translators: the Groucho clause

My standard fare is NL/FR>EN legal and industrial, which goes down with a general lack of fuss and fury.

But every now and again some loon writes, looking for someone to undercut Google Translate on, say, Serbian>Welsh, and sometimes I put out my horns, like the little Kyloe cow (do click!): for Romanian, for example, in order that one day I’ll be able to chat with my new friends in London; or for missives from south of the Pyrenees, because some amusing madness tends to ensue.

This morning’s Spanish mail is essentially a false freelance agreement: a contract of service masquerading as a contract for services, with employee responsibilities but without any corresponding rights.

The non-compete clause is particularly fine. If you signed such a thing as part of an full-time employment contract, you’d expect a quid pro quo of perhaps 6 months salary.

But here, with no compensation, you’d be prevented on pain of fearful penalties from working freelance for anyone who they may claim at any stage during their freelance relationship with you, and for two years thereafter, to be a client of theirs. And they don’t even provide a current client list.

So, it’s not a “don’t poach my client” so much as a “slave or starve” agreement, and worthy of Groucho: why would an agency want to work with anyone foolish enough to sign such a thing?

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