[Translated from the press release issued by the Italian Editorial Translators’ Union, STradE; read it in Italian here.]
On April 1, 2014, the German association of literary translators, the VdÜ (Verband deutschsprachiger Übersetzer literarischer und wissenschaftlicher Werke), and a group of publishers led by Carl Hanser Verlag in Munich signed an agreement regarding fees and royalties for literary translations (Gemeinsame Vergütungsregel).
Twelve years after existing German copyright law went into effect (the Gesetz zur Stärkung der vertraglichen Stellung von Urhebern und ausübenden Künstlern—“a law to strengthen the bargaining power of authors and artists”), which confirms, among other things, the right of authors to receive fair and adequate compensation for their work; and following more than fifty lawsuits filed by individual translators against various publishing houses, a group of German publishers has reached an agreement with the VdÜ that includes the following elements:
- Literary translators must now receive a base rate for their work that cannot fall below a pre-determined minimum (each translator is naturally free to negotiate a higher base rate). The minimum rates established for compensation depend upon the difficulty of the translation itself: €18.50 per Normseite (a 30-line page of 60-character lines) for texts of average complexity, €15 for the simplest texts (children’s books, trade nonfiction, manuals, etc.), and €22 for complex literary texts. Beginning on January 1, 2015 the first and third minimum rates will be increased, respectively, to €19 and €23 per Normseite. Future increases in rates may also take place.
- In addition to this base compensation, translators shall receive royalties for print editions of not less than: 1% of the cover price for sales of up to 5000 copies, 0.8% for sales between 5001 and 10,000 copies, and 0.6% for sales of more than 10,000 copies. The same scale applies to all new editions, with the exception of paperback editions subsequent to initial publication in other formats, in which case the minimums are halved. In addition, the agreement establishes a minimum royalty of 1.6% for audiobooks or similar products that do not fall into the category of print books. [NB: A statement furnished by CEATL, which purports to be an English translation of the VdÜ’s press release, is poorly done and leaves unclear the basis upon which this percentage is to be paid–cover price or publisher’s net proceeds; if any of our readers is a DE>EN translator and would be willing to track down the original German text and provide a real translation, No Peanuts! would be grateful!]
- For digital downloads, eBooks, or mp3s of any kind, the translator will receive, as minimum compensation, 2.5% for each copy sold or leased. [NB: Identical issue with the base for this percentage.]
- Regarding the licensing of secondary rights, translators will receive, as minimum compensation, 10% of the publisher’s net receipts with the exception of paperback editions, in which case the contractual minimum is halved (5%).
- Base compensation for translations of works in the public domain is established according to the same minimums as above, while minimum royalties are doubled with respect to those set out in points 2, 3, and 4 (obviously excluding cases in which the translator is able to negotiate more favorable conditions).
- These provisions are to be reviewed and renegotiated every two years. The agreement does not expire and may be terminated following notice of no less than six months.
The VdÜ and the publishers who are parties to the agreement (as of May 5, 2014: Carl Hanser, Hoffmann & Campe, Schöffling, Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt, Wallstein, marebuch, and other smaller publishing houses) invite all German publishers to sign the agreement.
 An 1800-character page, in other words, which is 10% shorter than the 2000-character page typically imposed by Italian publishers. In other words, if the German standard were adopted in Italy, the minimum for the standard Italian editorial cartella would vary between €20.35 (at €18.50; ±$28.49) and €24.20 (at €22; ±$33.88). This rate works out, roughly, to €0.061/word ($0.86 at current exchange rates) at €18.50 and €0.07 ($0.10) at €22.00 Currently, Italian translators struggle to receive €16 or even €14 for a 2000-character page, with rates of €10-12 not uncommon.