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Authors Guild Applauds Booker Foundation Stance on Translator Rights

The Authors Guild applauds the U.K.’s Booker Foundation on its stance to treat translators like any other creator by paying them royalties and respecting their copyrights.

The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization for published writers, journalists, and translators, has long supported the rights of translators to receive fair remuneration, including royalties from sales of translated books, and to retain copyright ownership of their work.

“Translators are an integral part of the production of global literature, yet their status as workers remains precarious in an industry where many are undervalued and underpaid,” said Julia Sanches, member of the Authors Guild Council and leader of the Guild’s Translators Group. “With literary translation firmly established under copyright law as a creative work, translators are entitled to a monetary share in the successes of the books they translate, including royalties from first sale and a fair percentage from the licensing of subsidiary rights to their work, such as audio, film, TV, anthologies, sales in other territories, etc.”

In April 2021, the Authors Guild issued a Literary Translation Model Book Contract to address the unique needs of literary translators. The Translation Model Contract features extensive commentary on translators’ rights under copyright rules, offering a model grant of rights clause to protect the translator’s copyright ownership. It also includes model clauses and commentary discussing what might be a fair percentage of royalties for books sold, as well as shares of subsidiary rights income, including from translations into third languages and possible dramatic adaptations.

“Bringing a book from one language into another requires tremendous creativity, and every translation is the product of a translator’s original thinking, choices, and creative expression,” Sanches added. “We hope that the Booker Foundation’s endorsement of translator royalties and copyright, along with the advocacy of writers groups on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Authors Guild and the Society of Authors, will lead to better industry standards throughout the English-speaking publishing world. Currently, a handful of small presses are leading the way. It’s time for other publishers to follow their example.”