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General Terms and Conditions for translators of books in the Netherlands
General Terms and Conditions for translators of books in the Netherlands
12 Aug, 2015

The Dutch Vereniging van Letterkundigen (VvL (http://www NULL.vvl NULL.nu/vvl/index NULL.php), Society of Authors) has adopted General Terms and Conditions (http://www NULL.vvl NULL.nu/vvl/site/submenu/item/559) to be used by translators of books other than those able to negotiate the already existing model contract, which is based on a gentleman’s agreement between the VvL and the Dutch Literaire Uitgeversgroep (LUG (http://www NULL.gau NULL.nuv NULL.nl/bestuur-werkgroepen/literaire-uitgeversgroep-(lug) NULL.9540 NULL.lynkx), Literary Fiction Publishers’ Group).

This requires some clarification. In the Dutch-speaking regions of the Netherlands and Flanders, the words ‘literature’ and ‘literary’ (as in: ‘literary’ translator) are employed in a limited sense to mean ‘written work valued for superior or lasting artistic merit’, to cite but the Oxford English Dictionary, or ‘belles-lettres’ – what is often referred to in English-language contexts as ‘literary fiction’. Therefore, in the Netherlands and Flanders there are three kinds of translators: translators of belles-lettres, translators of books that don’t fall under this strict category (e.g., thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, historic novels, children’s books), and translators who translate both kinds of literature. For this reason the VvL has two working groups for translators, the Working Group for Literary Translators (WLV), catering for those who translate belles-lettres, and, since 2011, the Working Group for Translators of General Books (WAB), catering for those who translate books that are not considered to be belles-lettres.

When translating belles-lettres, Dutch and Flemish translators use the Model Contract agreed upon by the VvL and the LUG. Until quite recently however, translators of all other books were at the publisher’s mercy, the model contract not being applicable to their books. In general, non-literary translators earn about 25% less compared to their literary peers in terms of word rates – the account unit in the Netherlands and Flanders. The contract terms dictated by their publishers are one-sided and fall far short of those included in the Model Contract. As a rule they contain an assignment of copyright to the publisher.

In an attempt to improve the working conditions of non-literary translators, the WAB, in close consultation with intellectual property right legal advisors, with the support of a grant from the Stichting Rechtshulp Auteurs (SRA (http://www NULL.vsenv NULL.nl/content/95/85/Juridisch%20advies NULL.html), Association for Legal Advice to Authors), has drawn up a set of General Terms and Conditions. On 1st July 2015 these were adopted by the board of the VvL and published on their website (http://www NULL.vvl NULL.nu/vvl/media/original/3b/wab_-_algemene_voorwaarden_website NULL.pdf). They contain provisions on a variety of subjects: scope of the provided services, terms and time of delivery, payment and publication, alteration, termination, reprint, liability, warranty, dissolution, and appeal.

Translators can use these General Terms and Conditions by declaring them applicable to the translation(s) they are commissioned to complete, or they can use them as a frame of reference with which they can compare the contract terms of their publishers. It is hoped that, in this way, translators will improve their working conditions, or at the very least will be alerted to the fact that their working conditions leave room for improvement.

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