What use can the source text publisher make of sample translation without asking the translator?
Thread poster: translatorplace
translatorplace  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 23:13
German to English
Apr 19, 2013

I would like to know if other literary translators have any experience with source text publishers who ask to see a substantial sample, express approval of the translation, say they will contact the foreign presses themselves to solicit interest, discourage the translator from making any independent moves to find a publisher and then refuse to answer emails. Is any able to throw some light on this situation?

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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:13
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
You hold the copyright until you've been paid Apr 19, 2013

My understanding is that the translator holds the copyright of the translation until he/she has been paid for the work.
This could enter a slight quagmire legally if you have entered into an express agreement to provide the sample for free. Is this the case?
You say the company/individual in question is refusing to answer emails. What sort of emails have you been sending? Perhaps it is a question of there being no news to divulge.
In my mind you have the right to solicit interest yourself with publishers if that's what you want to do, regardless of any other party discouraging you to do so.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:13
Russian to English
+ ...
I agree, No use at all Apr 19, 2013

Otherwise you could sue them for copyrights, and they may get in serious trouble, not just financially.

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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 13:13
English to Polish
+ ...
On copyrights Apr 19, 2013

I don't know about your jurisdiction but in mine only a limited licence is conveyed by simply accepting and returning a job. The ownership of rights remains with the author (in this case the translator) until transferred in writing, where it is often stipulated that the transfer takes place upon receipt of the fee or reverts if the fee remains unpaid after some time.

Doing a job would probably (i.e. check with a lawyer in your country) imply a licence for any normal or evident use, e.g. if you translate a marketing text for a website, it'd be hard to claim you weren't intending to give the client a licence to use it on his website. But there could be more leeway with more literary or artistic translations involving publishing houses, publishing rights etc. If you okayed the use of the sample for soliciting work, then the client (agency, publisher or other middleman) can use the sample for that purpose but can't just go ahead and use it for its own marketing unrelated to you.

Please note that barring a full transfer or a restricting stipulation, licences are normally revocable. Revoking a licence could, however, be both effective and infringing, meaning that the grantor's right to revoke the licence will be respected but damage or loss will need to be paid for whatever detriment the other party suffered in good faith reliance on the licence. A breach by the other party, e.g. failure to make agreed payments, excess of the agreed scope or terms of use, should probably justify the revocation of a licence.

But before you do (or anybody else does) anything, you need to sit down with a lawyer from your jurisdiction because there are some pecularities, especially there might be some in the treatment of any contractual breaches or implied grants etc. (which heavily involves local contract law).

[Edited at 2013-04-19 15:22 GMT]


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translatorplace  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 23:13
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
ST publisher using sample translation without translator's consent Apr 20, 2013

Thank you Marie-Helene, Lilian and Lukasz,

It is good to know how the copyright laws might apply. However,I doubt that the publisher with whom I am dealing would risk anything illegal. My concern relates more to current business practices regarding literary translation. Is there anything to stop a publisher showing one translator's sample to prospective publishers to drum up interest (say at a book fair) and then bringing in another translator (with a "name", for example) to do the translation when a deal is made? Perhaps not! But in my case, I provided a very large sample and a lot of marketing advice AFTER being assured by the ST publisher that she would try the UK and US presses with my material. I agreed to this. That was six months ago. I have sent only three emails in that time and merely asked for confirmation that the sample has been sent out. No reply! Do publishers generally no longer send the old one-liner; "Thanks, but ..(e.g.. I have found another translator....)"?
How would you react to this scenario? I would appreciate some advice.

Jo


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urbom
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:13
German to English
+ ...
No obligation to stick with sample translator for publication Apr 20, 2013

translatorplace wrote:

Is there anything to stop a publisher showing one translator's sample to prospective publishers to drum up interest (say at a book fair) and then bringing in another translator (with a "name", for example) to do the translation when a deal is made?


In short: no. The TL publisher* chooses which translator they use for the actual job. It may well be that the sample translation is what persuaded them to acquire the (in your case: English-language) rights to a title, but they are free to choose any translator they like to translate the book for publication.

At least you *did* get paid a fee for doing the sample translation, right?

In the UK, the Translators' Association (part of the Society of Authors) represents the interests of literary translators. You may find some useful information on their website here: http://societyofauthors.org/translators-association
___________________
*edit to clarify: With few exceptions that I'm aware of, it's the TL publisher, not the SL publisher/rights department/agency selling the rights, who chooses the translator to do the translation that will be published in the TL market. In some cases there might be a sort of 'beauty contest' in which several translators are asked to submit brief sample translations and then the successful candidate is chosen from that pool, sometimes with input from the author and/or agent.


[Edited at 2013-04-20 08:01 GMT]


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translatorplace  Identity Verified
Australia
Local time: 23:13
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
ST publisher's use of sample translatio Apr 20, 2013

Thank you Urbom. I will follow your suggestion about joining the Translators' Association, via The Society of Authors.

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