The rulings concerning the verdict of German Federal Court in the translator remuneration dispute (http://www NULL.ceatl that has been occupying the German publishing scene since the 2002 amendment to German copyright law, have recently been made available.

In brief, appropriate and reasonable remuneration for literary translation is as follows:

  • primary rights: for hardcover editions 0,8% starting from 5000 copies sold, for pocket book editions 0,4% starting from 5000 copies sold, and for all exploitations/uses outside the price fixing agreement (audio books, electronic books etc.) one fifth of the author’s royalties;
  • electronic rights: normally 4%, 5% or 6% of the net price (i.e., one fifth of the author’s royalties, which are normally 20%, 25% or 30%);
  • additional and subsidiary rights: normally 10% or 12% or 14% of the total net receipt (i.e., one fifth of the author’s royalties, which are normally 50%, 60% or 70%. Since the translator’s share must not exceed the publisher’s share, in the rare case of an 80% share in royalties for the author, the translator gets only 10%).

These judgements are fundamental decisions which allow no chance for appeal. Some publishing houses have announced that they are going to prepare a formal complaint against an unconstitutional decision taken by the courts. According to the Association of German-Language Translators, VdÜ , the chances of this complaint being accepted by the Federal Constitutional Court are very low.

Though many publishing houses do by now offer primary rights royalties in accordance with the Federal Court decision, their contracts often mention no or much smaller shares concerning secondary and electronic rights. Therefore, VdÜ will continue to ask its members to start legal proceedings against contracts that do not comply with the Federal court decisions, and will insist on negotiations with publishing houses on common rules for the remuneration of literary translations.

German Federal Court verdict on remuneration of translators
Tagged on: