Google Translate API gets monetized

I spoke about the deprecation of the Google Translate API when it was first announced, and speculated that the real reason for changing the status quo was “another product on the horizon”. Turns out I was spot on, with Google announcing that the paid version of the Google Translate API is now open for business.

This API supports translations between 50+ languages (more than 2500 language pairs) and is made possible by Google’s cloud infrastructure and large scale machine learning algorithms.

The paid version of Translate API removes many of the usage restrictions of previous versions and can now be used in commercial products. Translation costs $20 per million (M) characters of text translated (or approximately $0.05/page, assuming 500 words/page). You can sign up online via the APIs console for usage up to 50 M chars/month. Developers who created projects in the APIs Console and started using the Translate API v2 prior to today will continue to receive a courtesy limit of 100K chars/day until December 1, 2011 or until they enable billing for their projects.

For academic users, we will continue to offer free access to the Google Translate Research API through our University Research Program for Google Translate. For website translations, we encourage you to use the Google Website Translator gadget which will continue to be free for use on all web sites. In addition, Google Translate, Translator Toolkit, the mobile translate apps for iPhone and Android, and translation features within Chrome, Gmail, etc. will continue to be available to all users at no charge.

The glaringly obvious oversight is the question on all translators lips: Have you used or are you using TMs uploaded by users in good faith? I personally disagree with the decidedly closed system thinking that dominates this issue – I think translators are overly precious about TM ownership – but the reality is that Google is abusing it’s power in this case. The Google Translator’s Toolkit‘s Terms of Service is sufficiently vague, probably untested, and almost certainly open enough to interpretation to allow Google to use those uploaded TMs. Even proving that Google had transgressed your TM copyright would be a nightmare.

Note that I’m not a translator – it’s easier for me to have this position, and to be fair to Google, there’s no reason why translators couldn’t get together to take them on in this market, but it’s that preciousness surrounding TM ownership that’s preventing this from happening.

If, at any stage or in any way, Google has accidentally or otherwise let copyrighted TMs into it’s language learning systems or it’s translation systems, I believe that they have a responsibility to provide the API for free to everyone – and I think translators should be shouting this loud and clear from the mountain tops.