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Poll: Do you get copyright royalties for translation jobs you've done?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 06:40
SITE STAFF
May 7, 2011

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you get copyright royalties for translation jobs you've done?".

This poll was originally submitted by Paula Tizzano Fernández. View the poll results »



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TheTranslator86
Turkey
Local time: 16:40
English to Turkish
+ ...
Maybe we have May 7, 2011

Last Month, I translated a big accounting book, belonging to IFAC. They asked me to sign several documents in order for me not to demand any copyright royalties. Depending on this, I now think that there may be possibility for the translator to have such a rigt. However, in another book I came across a sentence saying: As the content has been created by XXX company and as the translator has no contribution to that process, s/he shall have no claim for the copyrigt demands.

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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 15:40
German to English
+ ...
of course we enjoy copyright May 7, 2011

but: it is probably an implied term of your agreement with the client that you assign this copyright to the client. I doubt if you could claim your normal payment and then in addition claim copyright fees.

HOWEVER: if you translate for books published in Germany, and probably other countries too, you can apparently register with the collecting society responsible for literature and get paid a rather small amount from the copyright fees the society collects on library loans and photocopiers.


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David Young  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:40
Danish to English
Literary translation May 7, 2011

I think royalties are only usually paid on literature. Then it is a question of what one considers literature. Is non-fiction also literature? I would argue it is. So for someone to say "the translator has not made any contribution to the process" is pure BS. If it were so, then the publisher could just publish in the original language and see how well it sells. A Chinese book in Turkey? I think that would need to be translated .
Royalties seem to vary though from country to country. Here in Denmark, literary translators are very poorly paid, presumably because the market is so small, even for best sellers, and there are no royalties. But in the UK, it is very common for the translator to get a royalty. If it's non-fiction with a very limited market, I would certainly go for a higher fee and forget the royalties, but with fiction, well, you never know what will grab the reading public's imagination.



[Edited at 2011-05-07 09:56 GMT]


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Joanna Hald  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 15:40
Danish to Polish
+ ...
Film translations May 7, 2011

I get royalties for many of my film translations.

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:40
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Other May 7, 2011

That royalties are paid for film and literary translations is clear.
However, I wonder if any royalty laws also cover the writing -
or creation - of website content?


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oxygen4u
Portugal
Local time: 14:40
English to Portuguese
+ ...
No, never... May 7, 2011

I never got royalties and I've translated over 15 books...

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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:40
English to Spanish
+ ...
No Royalties May 7, 2011

I translate mostly legal documents, reports and corporate information, none of which is for publication except internally in some cases. Those few books I have translated have been for fees, and with such fees I have been satisfied. So I get no royalties, and I would not be comfortable with such an arrangement. Just pay me my fee and it is all yours, I have no desire to go into business with you.

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isabel murillo  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:40
English to Spanish
+ ...
Royalties are part of the contract but almost impossible to get! May 7, 2011

In my case, as a books translator (both fiction and no fiction) in Spain, I always sign a contract with the publishing house that includes royalties as a concept. So, the concept is there. In addition to that, I receive from the publishing houses yearly updates on the units sold.

To get the royalties, however, is another thing, as you just perceive them when a book is a very very very big seller.

In addition to that, the books translators in Spain registered in the collecting society responsible for literature (CEDRO) get paid each year a very small amount from the copyright fees the society collects on library loans and photocopiers.


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Kathryn Litherland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:40
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Work-for-hire May 7, 2011

In the United States (and I think this is different from most of Europe), most translation work--including literary translation and other words--falls into the category of "work for hire". The authorship rights are held by the person (physical or moral) who paid you to create the work, and so payment of royalties doesn't enter into it.

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Michele Fauble  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:40
Member (2006)
Norwegian to English
+ ...
Translation and copyright May 7, 2011

Kathryn Litherland wrote:

In the United States (and I think this is different from most of Europe), most translation work--including literary translation and other words--falls into the category of "work for hire". The authorship rights are held by the person (physical or moral) who paid you to create the work, and so payment of royalties doesn't enter into it.


This is my understanding of the issue of translation and copyright.


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Anna Haxen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:40
Member (2005)
English to Danish
+ ...
Yes - for literary translation May 8, 2011

David Young wrote:

Here in Denmark, literary translators are very poorly paid, presumably because the market is so small, even for best sellers, and there are no royalties.


Actually, you can get copyright royalties as a literary translator in Denmark. It depends on the contract you sign with the publisher. I get paid a percentage of the original fee when certain books I translated are republished/reissued. (Or I used to - I gave up literary translation long ago because of the poor pay).


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:40
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, for a book translation - how it works May 8, 2011

First, of course, one only gets royalties from a published book. Royalties are a percentage of the sales price. So unless your translation is published and sells more than a certain number of copies, you are not entitled to royalties. And you have to have a contract beforehand.

Royalties are usually paid on a schedule, based on copies sold. Often they only kick in after a certain number of copies. That may be negotiable, though some publishers have fixed policies.

Many years ago I helped develop a model contract for book translation, with negotiable options. The translator gets a compensation package, which is usually a combination of royalties, a flat fee, a per-word fee, and/or his/her name on the cover (which counts toward recognition as an author and, for example, membership in PEN International). The contract is between the publisher and the translator, and it is signed in advance.

I translated a book for the University of Texas Press: "Mexico and the U.S. in the Oil Controversy," by Lorenzo Meyer. My compensation package included royalties, a flat fee, and my name on the cover.

A couple of days ago I commented here on book translation. It's a different ballgame, but not because of the nature of the text (e.g. literary). The issue is that a publication (unlike an internal document) involves many players: copy editor, type composer, book designer, managers, distributors, promoters, etc. There are also costs for printing, materials, storage, and transportation. The margins are thin in the publishing industry. So paying for a translator is not something they will do unless the know in advance that the project has a wide audience.

From the publisher's perspective, it always helps if a translator cares enough about a book to accept low compensation. But this isn't undercutting because it doesn't affect the workaday translation market.


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:40
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Copyright and work-for-hire May 8, 2011

In the United States at least, if your translation is published by a reputable publishing house, it is protected by copyright.

So I don't think 'work-for-hire' is necessarily the test. It's about the kind of contract. If you do a work-for-hire without a prior contract that specifies copyright protection, you certainly wouldn't have a right to royalties.


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Nora Armani  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:40
Member (2005)
English
+ ...
Royalties or not? Jun 22, 2012

Copyright and royalties are two different things.
Though a translator (or even an author) may not hold the copyright on 'work for hire', for which they may have been paid an honorarium already, they can and should receive royalties on copies sold (if book) or viewed/broadcast (if film).

It is the same for SAG actors and film. Though we never hold authorship or ownership of the film we appear in, and are paid for our work as actors, we still get royalties on the film as it plays in various outlets and internationally, ad vitam!

Of course it depends on what you negotiate and your notoriety, but to give a broad spectrum, it could range between 5-10%, or 10-25% and it could be one thing up to a certain amount, and decrease progressively, etc... the rate might vary based on expertise, notoriety and reach.

Thanks
NA


[Edited at 2012-06-22 11:57 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-06-22 11:59 GMT]


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