Thursday, 8 October 2009

German Verdict on Literary Translation Royalties

Yesterday the German Federal Court of Justice - the highest legal instance in the country - ruled on a case over pay and royalties for literary translators. There have been ongoing disputes between publishers and the translators' association for years now, especially since the government amended copyright law, stating that the existing situation was "inadequate".

The verdict sets a legal precedent, awarding translators royalties of 0.8% for hardcover and 0.4% for paperback titles - from the 5000th copy sold. It doesn't address the issue of page rates, which are notoriously low. In fact in the case in question, the translator was paid only €15 per standard page, a very low rate indeed but not unusual in German publishing. However, the judges did award translators 50% of revenue from subsidiary rights such as sales of the translation for paperback editions, film rights, audiobooks, etc. Which is apparently well above the current norm.

I'll update with a link to the VdÜ press release once it's available in English.

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