‘Impressum’ in English revisited

(LATER NOTE, added in June 2004: I would translate Impressum as ‘Legal notice’, or at a pinch as ‘Contact us’ or some such. A Google search on “legal notice” site:uk reveals many examples).

In an earlier entry I mentioned this problem: the German word Impressum, referring to the details web site owners are required to quote on their sites, is often mistranslated (e.g. as imprint or masthead).

A German translator asked on a mailing list what the English equivalent is, since the Impressum is required under EU law.

In England and Wales, the Electronic Commerce Directive (00/31/EC) was implemented by the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations. I quote those:

General information to be provided by a person providing an information society service
6. – (1) A person providing an information society service shall make available to the recipient of the service and any relevant enforcement authority, in a form and manner which is easily, directly and permanently accessible, the following information –

(a) the name of the service provider;

(b) the geographic address at which the service provider is established;

(c) the details of the service provider, including his electronic mail address, which make it possible to contact him rapidly and communicate with him in a direct and effective manner;

(d) where the service provider is registered in a trade or similar register available to the public, details of the register in which the service provider is entered and his registration number, or equivalent means of identification in that register;

(e) where the provision of the service is subject to an authorisation scheme, the particulars of the relevant supervisory authority;

(f) where the service provider exercises a regulated profession –

(i) the details of any professional body or similar institution with which the service provider is registered;

(ii) his professional title and the member State where that title has been granted;

(iii) a reference to the professional rules applicable to the service provider in the member State of establishment and the means to access them; and

(g) where the service provider undertakes an activity that is subject to value added tax, the identification number referred to in Article 22(1) of the sixth Council Directive 77/388/EEC of 17 May 1977 on the harmonisation of the laws of the member States relating to turnover taxes – Common system of value added tax: uniform basis of assessment[13].

(2) Where a person providing an information society service refers to prices, these shall be indicated clearly and unambiguously and, in particular, shall indicate whether they are inclusive of tax and delivery costs.

So the only word is ‘information’.

The word Information is also used in Austria. Here’s an example on an Austrian translators’ web site.

Every bit as detailed as the German, but no Impressum as far as the eye can see.

ADDED LATER: I did conclude after this that the word ‘information’ alone would not do in English and I would use ‘Contact information’. Klaus points out in the comments that the word ‘Impressum’ is widely used in Austria, if not in the law (I seem to have hit on an unusual website, which says ‘Informationen gemäß § 5 Abs. 1 E-Commerce Gesetz’, rather heavy for most purposes. Incidentally, it gives this information on the page labelled ‘Home’). – The word ‘Impressum’ probably isn’t in the German law either – I haven’t checked where it comes from.

10 thoughts on “‘Impressum’ in English revisited

  1. Just out of curiosity: You write “in England and Wales”, so what about Scotland? I know that Scotland has its own legal system, but I don’t know exactly how this works in relation to the English/Welsh/UK system. Are there separate regulations for this directive in Scottish law or do these regulations apply as well?

  2. I didn’t think about that. I always write ‘England and Wales’, because that’s the system I know best. I’ve got a couple of reference works on Scotland, but that’s all. I suspect this directive applies in Scotland too. I have had a quick search (including books!) but I can’t find a rule. It may be that all EU law is transposed into legislation for the whole of the UK – no, that can’t be the case, because I found some law that was expressed not to extend to Northern Ireland.
    I found a 1996 talk by Lord Justice Schiemann where he said ‘It is worth noting, however, that UK legislators regularly face the task of transposing a legislative desire into the language of two different legal systems – the English and the Scottish. In the context of Directives this can lead to different legislative wording north and south of the border designed nevertheless to achieve the same end’.

  3. I’m not quite sure why either masthead or imprint would be inappropriate. German uses Impressum for both as well as for a peridocial’s flag. It seems that a masthead contains similar information.

  4. In Austria, “Impressum” is the most common term as well, even though that word isn’t used in the law (AFAIK).

    Just “Informationen” is far too generic unless it’s supplemented with the usual “gemäß XXX-Gesetz”, which sounds too much like legalese if you’re writing for the general public. If I want to know who’s behind a website or a newspaper, I’d look for the “Impressum” first, not for “Informationen”.

  5. Klaus: I agree, the word ‘information’ won’t do it. I am sorry I didn’t say that! I just wanted to point out that there is no specific word like ‘Impressum’ in the English law. Thanks for the information about ‘Impressum’ being used in Austria. A web search shows it certainly is.

    I would use ‘Contact’ or ‘Contact details’ in English, because part of the requirement is being able to get hold of the person. I could add ‘Legal details’, but it does sound a bit heavy.

    Jim: I’m surprised you would think that. I find both imprint and masthead unacceptable. ‘Imprint’ is the one you most often see, and with its ‘-print’ element, it seems to refer to a printed publication. (Even in books, we don’t actually use the word ‘imprint’ above the details, btw). ‘Masthead’ is harder to argue against. I think I object to ‘masthead’ because it’s so clearly associated with newspapers for me. I can see you could argue in favour of it. In all the discussions among translators I’ve read, only one person was in favour of ‘imprint’ on a website, ‘because it’s so often used’. Of course, if it continues to be used, it will become standard, but I think it would have to be used on English-language sites.
    I think there have been some l
    awsuits in Germany started by law firms against people without an ‘Impressum’. Perhaps this explains the awareness of the (need for) the term.

  6. Well, I don’t see needing another word for a concept that seems closely covered by an existing word. I agree with you that “masthead” sould be preferred to “imprint”. The thing is that the web seems to me like an extension of or an outgrowth of print media. (More so at least than say radio or TV.) I’ve seen blogs that use colophon instead of “About” in links. Take blog entries. What should they be called? Some, like myself, prefer “entry” in keeping with the journal / diary concept of a blog, but many write “article”. It seems to me that people who knew the word masthead and its meaning could be expected to extend it into the online context, and those who didn’t could be expected to apply its current dictionary meaning to the context also.

  7. I did write something about ‘colophon’ in my first entry, and I see Polyglut (on my Links list) has a colophon.
    The way I see it, ‘Impressum’ in German has been expanded to mean the bit on your website that gives the information required by law (name, address, maybe also VAT number, membership of professional association etc.). It hasn’t got that meaning in English yet. If I see ‘Imprint’ on a website, it’s the work of a translator. It seems more natural to me to expand the meaning of ‘Contact’, which is already used on websites. At all events, I don’t think this ‘naming’ has taken place in English yet. I wonder if the Germans implemented this EU Directive earlier than we did. I could look at some Irish sites, to see if they have developed a practice.

  8. Sorry about “colophon”: I only skimmed your first entry. I’d like to know if and what you come up with for Impressum englished. Thanks.

  9. How I would translate it would really depend on the context. What I’ve done myself you can see at the top right. Mind you, I have fewer details in English than in German – maybe I should change that.
    See the entry on the German American Law Journal’s entry – they suggest ‘compliant statement’ for ‘Impressum’.

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