Copyright & Royalty Doubts
Thread poster: Mirela Perusia

Mirela Perusia
Argentina
Local time: 05:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jun 20, 2008

Hello all,

I live in Argentina, and I have recently started translating an odonthology book from Spanish into English.

The book is to be published in English first, for the European market. The publishing house is in Germany. I was hired directly by the author of the book, who is also from Argentina, like me, and not by the publishing house; and it is the author who's paying me.

Though I have already finished translating the first chapter and I have already delivered it, I still haven't discussed copyright and royalty details with the author. In fact, I'll be translating just some chapters of the book, since a few chapters have already been translated by another translator the author had hired before hiring me (she didn't meet the deadline so he fired her). Plus, the author invited some foreing dentists to write some chapters in English, so those ones will not require translating.

I am at a loss about what my rights as author of the translation are. So I'd be really grateful if someone told me what I am entitled to:

1) I know that I should be mentioned on the book as the author of the translation of the corresponding chapters (but some publishing houses don't even do that). What if they refuse to do that? This is the first book I translate which is to be published by a foreign publishing house (a German one in this case) so I don't know what to expect, especially since I am in Argentina and the publishing house is so far away, in Germany.

2) What royalties would be reasonable to expect as translator?

3) Would the fact that it was the author himself who hired me for the translation job and not the publishing house change anything regarding royalties?

4) Would it be OK if I asked the author to provide me with the publishing house contact information, so that I can discuss all these issues with the publishing house directly? Or should the author be the one who talks to them about this first?

As you can see, I am at a complete loss. Please help me, especially if you know what to expect from a German publishing house on this subject.

Thanks a lot!

Best regards,

Elita
Buenos Aires, Argentina


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The Misha
Local time: 04:07
Russian to English
+ ...
I don't think you have any rights whatsoever Jun 21, 2008

It's always a tricky proposition to translate a book working directly for the author, and not for the publisher. Unless, of course, you are paid up front or otherwise have a reasonable assurance that you will be paid. Any copyright or royalty rights in this case will be a non-issue at all since the potential publisher (if the book ever gets published) is not bound by any obligations to you. In the absence of a signed contract with the publisher spelling out your rights, I don't think you have any at all. In fact, if it ever comes to this, you will probably find it hard enough even to prove that you are in fact the author of this translation. Maybe you should reconsider before you got too far. Cheers!

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Robert Tucker
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:07
German to English
+ ...
A guess Jun 21, 2008

In the UK, and I think in most Western European countries, the copyright of a piece of literature or a translation always belongs to the person that wrote it. You only sell the right for it to be published in some form by a certain person or organization.

What rights you have to where your translation is published and by whom will probably depend on what the contract is between you and the author. If you undertook it thinking, assuming, (or having it in writing) that he could publish it how, when, by whom and in whatever format he liked, then that will probably be the case. If you undertook it understanding that it was only for this particular publishing house then that will be the case. If you undertook it implicitly or explicitly accepting that the one-off payment for the translation was your sole monetary reward for the work, then that too will probably be the case.

The only time you would be able to act for contravention of your copyright would be if the contract or assumed contract between you and the author was breached or if someone other than the author (and without his permission) were to try to publish your translations.


But I'm not a lawyer – and it may take an international property rights lawyer to answer your question fully.


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Jan Willem van Dormolen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:07
English to Dutch
+ ...
Some remarks Jun 21, 2008

Authorship rights differ from country to country, and some countries don't have it at all.
However, I assume Argentina has some laws in this respect.
In several countries, you have to announce your authorship in some way. In the US, you have to put your name and the copyright symbol on it. In the Netherlands (where I live), authorship is automatic, once you have created something, you own it. Proving that it was you is another matter, but in this case you will probably have at the very least some (e-)mail in which the author asks you to do the translation, so I'm not pessimistic.

Another thing is, there are actually two sorts of authorship rights: the economic and the creative rights. The economic rights are the rights to make money from your work. In most countries, you can sell these rights. In the case of translation, this is almost always the case: by delivering and being paid, you transfer the economic rights to your client, PROVIDED this is mentioned in the contract, or some other form of agreement you have made with the client. You can make different arrangements, like a set sum that relieves you of all your rights, or a small payment per copy of the end product sold, or a combination of the two.
Then there are artistic rights. These are basically the rights to change things in your work: noone can omit or add or adapt your work without your consent. In many countries, artistic rights cannot be sold or transferred. They remain with you permanently, and if your country has ratified the international treaties on authorship rights, they remain with you (or rather: your heirs) until 70 years after your death.

Make sure you inquire into the Argentinian situation. This might be as easy as typing 'authorships rights Argentina' (in Spanish) into your favourite search engine.

Of course, you should have done this BEFORE starting work, but that's water under the bridge now.


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QUOI  Identity Verified

Chinese to English
+ ...
From what I can see... Jun 21, 2008

The contract is between you and the author, so the issue of condiseration (that is money or reward) must be discussed between you and the author. There is no business dealings between you and the publishing house

If you have entered a contract (doesn't have to be in writing) which has the essential elements of offer (the author asked you to perform work for him/her), acceptance (you agreed to work for the author for the agreed consideration) and consideration (the author agreed to pay on completion in money or in kind or in other forms), then the contract is usually conclusive.

So it really depends on what you two have agreed. The author may agree to pay you a percentage out of each sale as a way to encourage you to do a better job because the better your translation is, the more his/her book will sell and the more money he/she will make.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the terms of your agreement. If it is not in the contract, it is usually not part of the deal.

Hope this helps.




[Edited at 2008-06-21 10:56]


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Robert Tucker
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:07
German to English
+ ...
Argentina Jun 21, 2008

Jan Willem van Dormolen wrote:
Authorship rights differ from country to country, and some countries don't have it at all.
However, I assume Argentina has some laws in this respect.
In several countries, you have to announce your authorship in some way. In the US, ...


I think in Argentina one has to register it by submitting three copies (or in some cases just one copy) of the work to the National Intellectual Property Registry.

http://www.wipo.int/clea/en/text_html.jsp?lang=en&id=82

Paragraphs 57–64


There may be problems with there being multiple authors/translators in this case, something called "joint authorship" on this page relating to Indian copyright:

http://education.nic.in/copyright.asp


You may also need to specify under which country's legislation the contract between you (the translator) and the author (the person requesting the translation) is to be deemed valid.

[Edited at 2008-06-21 13:01]


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Mirela Perusia
Argentina
Local time: 05:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I'm starting to see the light, but... Jun 22, 2008

Thank you all for your replies. I'm starting to see the light.

You're right when you say I should have discussed these issues with the author before starting the job. Well, I have now come to learn how the thing really is.

I e-mailed the author and told him to tell me if both the other translator (the one he fired) and me would be mentioned as translators when the book is published.

The thing is that his book has never been published in Spanish. I'm translating his original "raw" Spanish text into English. He told me the contract he signed with the German publishing house specified that the original book to be published by them should be in English. I.e., the publishing house will not consider my translation into English to be a translation, but to be the original English book itself. That's why, the author says, they'll not include my name as translator on the book, since there is no Spanish book published, and so, no translation into English at all.

In short, for the author, rather than being a translator, I am a scribe. I'm just writing in English what he wrote in Spanish -and never published in Spanish.

He says that, if the book ever gets published in Spanish, I'll be mentioned as the translator, since that will, indeed, be a "true" translation -a translation from the original book published in English by the German publishing house. (Of course, if ever that happens, I´ll ask to be payed the corresponding royalties too).

I think what he says is reasonable. For the German publishing house, there is no translation into English, and so no translator will be mentioned, just the author. I think it´s reasonable, but I feel uncomfortable anyway...

When the author delivers the translation to the publishing house, they'll send the text to England to be edited (for the sake of cohesion, since there are some chapters written in English by other dentists the author invited to participate). So, they´ll kind of re-write what I wrote and what the other translator wrote, and what the other dentists wrote.

Of course, I didn't mention royalties to the author. I didn't think it was ethical, since I never mentioned anything regarding this when I gave him my estimate for the job. And now that I know I´m not even to be mentioned as translator, I understand I'm not entitled to any royalties at all either. I suppose I'm just entitled to the amount of money the author and I agreed on for the "scribe" job I'm doing, and that's all (this is not a problem, since I'm not having any problems to collect the money).

I thought about registering my translation in the Intelectual Property Office here in Buenos Aires despite all that I´ve mentioned, but what would be the point? If ever another publishing house publishes the book (in English again), they´ll use the final English text which is property of the German publishing house, and not mine...

What do you think about this? God, this is all so difficult...

Thanks for everything =)

Elita


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:07
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Check this again Jun 22, 2008

Mirela Perusia wrote:

The thing is that his book has never been published in Spanish. I'm translating his original "raw" Spanish text into English. He told me the contract he signed with the German publishing house specified that the original book to be published by them should be in English. I.e., the publishing house will not consider my translation into English to be a translation, but to be the original English book itself. That's why, the author says, they'll not include my name as translator on the book, since there is no Spanish book published, and so, no translation into English at all.

In short, for the author, rather than being a translator, I am a scribe. I'm just writing in English what he wrote in Spanish -and never published in Spanish.



I don't know about the laws in your country, but in Italy it makes no difference if the work has been published or not. Here copyright laws refer to the fact that it is PUBLISHABLE.
I had to check into this just last year because I translated the screenplay for a film that has never been made (and there are no plans in the work), but I billed the author based on Italian copyright laws (the tax scheme is different). Since he could conceivably use my work one day down the road, he had to pay me for those rights and certainly cannot put his own name on something he didn't translate. His name goes on the original, still unpublished, and my goes on the translation, likewise unpublished.

Your author has absolutely no right to sign his name to your work. After all, he can't even submit the work in English without your help.
Catherine


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Mirela Perusia
Argentina
Local time: 05:07
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Indeed, he has no right Jun 22, 2008

I know my author has no right to sign his name to my English version of his book. What I also do know is that the publishing house will not include my name as translator of the book, since for them this is not a translation at all, it's an English original.

It will all depend on the author understanding that he has no right to pretend that he's the author of the English version and his including some notice that I am the translator somewhere in the book. For example, wouldn´t it be OK if at the end of each chapter I translated a notice is included which goes "English version by (my name)"? Is the publishing house likely to accept this if he proposes it to them?

What if the author claims that he payed me to write the English version and that's all? That by paying me the per-word fee I requested he also "bought" the right to use the translation as if it were his own writing?

Maybe I should refuse to continue working for him if the refuses to include my name somewhere in the book... But he's paying me good money for the translation, so I don't know.

What would you do if you were in my shoes?

Thanks!
Elita


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