PEN Translation Committee Redefines the Verb “Advocate” to Mean “Sell Down the River”

The PEN American Center’s Translation Committee has just released its updated list of Publishers of Works in Translation, boasting that there are now 220 names on the list.

Too bad more than 10% of the publishers on that list are known copyright rustlers, including all the worst offenders in literary translation in the 2014 report, Copyright “Rustling” in English-Language Translation: How Translators Keep (and Lose) Rights to Their Work—Data from Translations Published in 2014: Europa Editions, New Vessel Press, Gallic Books, and others.

The PEN American Center and, specifically, its PEN Translation Committee, supposedly “advocates on behalf of literary translators.” That’s from the Committee’s own mission statement.

So why aren’t they doing it?

Why doesn’t the PEN American Center and the PEN Translation Committee, through its co-chairs, Margaret Carson and Alex Zucker, advocate on behalf of translators whose copyrights are being taken by publishers of English-language translations?

For months, in fact, both No Peanuts! and translators within PEN have been asking the Translation Committee to address the growing problem of publishers who rustle translators’ copyrights, including by making copyright-transfer a take-it-or-leave-it condition of publishing contracts.

They’ve done nothing.

If the PEN Translation Committee refuses to tackle an issue it considers “political,” that’s one thing.

But the least PEN could do would be to stop promoting publishers that take translators’ copyrights.

Being able to list 220 translation publishers is impressive. But the Copyright “Rustling” report lists 396 translators whose copyrights were usurped in 2014 alone.

Contact PEN America Center and PEN Translation (@PENamerican; and its Co-Chairs, Margaret Carson ( and Alex Zucker (; @Alex_Zucker). (Before anyone starts getting it too twisted, by the way, all this contact information is public.)

In the meantime, you can:

  • Sign the No Peanuts! petition at
  •  Share the petition with your colleagues and friends and ask them to sign. The petition effort will only be effective if large numbers of translators, readers of translations, and other supporters sign up to say they think translators’ copyrights ought to stay in translators’ hands.
  • Read “Something Is Rotten: Let’s Put A Stop to Copyright Rustling” at
  • Retweet No Peanuts! messages on Twitter (follow us, if you haven’t already: @No_Peanuts).
  • Send your own Tweets about this issue to your colleagues and use the hashtag #CopyWrong. (Addresses can be found in Copyright “Rustling” in English-Language Translation: How Translators Keep (and Lose) Rights to Their Work—Data from Translations Published in 2014;
  • Blog about this issue.
  • Bring this issue up on translator forums, on translator mailing lists, and at conferences and meetings of the translator associations you belong to.
  • Demand that other translators’ organizations do their jobs and advocate for translators against “rustling.” Silence is not neutral.
  • Write copyright-rustling publishers and ask them to change their policies. (Addresses can be found in the _Copyright “Rustling”_ report,
  • When you see reviews of translations in print publications or publicized on Twitter, Facebook, on blogs or elsewhere, find out whether the translator’s copyright has been rustled. If it has, say something!

About No Peanuts! for Translators

No Peanuts! supports professional translators & interpreters in demanding & receiving fair pay for their work.
This entry was posted in CopyRight-CopyWrong, Notes from No Peanuts!, Resistance and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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