Despite a two-month-long campaign, literally thousands of emails, scores of Facebook and Twitter posts, and the signatures of more than 750 of their colleagues, thousands of translators steadfastly continue to refuse to sign the No Peanuts! petition against copyright rustling or otherwise participate in efforts to protect translators from publishers who take possession of their intellectual property.
The New York-based Translation Committee of the internationally renowned writers’ association, PREEN (Permanently Reluctant to Eliminate Editorial Nonsense), was especially direct in explaining its thumbs-down on the campaign: “There are only so many English translations that can be published in a year,” the Committee’s chairwoman explained, “and that means people who put their name on a No Peanuts! petition are asking for trouble. If you were a publisher, would you choose a translator you already knew had a backbone? Of course you wouldn’t! Campaigns like this do only one thing: they rob honest translators of the opportunity to be abused and exploited by a publisher. PREEN 100% opposes translators not being exploited!”
A well-known translation blogger and tweeter (traitorista.net), who also serves on the board of the ATAA (American Translators Against Activism), had a related comment. “I don’t think it’s right for No Peanuts! to broadcast the names of abusive publishers, just like I don’t think anybody should be broadcasting the names of translators. Look, if you translate a book, that’s between you and the publisher. It’s private. When someone makes information like that public, it’s obviously nothing more than revenge. The ‘naming and shaming’ has to stop.”
Other comments came fast and furious on a mailing list for translators who work to or from English and Italian. Said one member, who has up to now spent his entire career translating furniture catalogs and hotel websites but recently decided to take advantage of “new publishing opportunities” and start translating books at rock-bottom rates, “Translators are asking too much! They want the same rights as authors! Next thing you know, they’ll be demanding all the perks that every single published author of a literary novel or book of Xhosa poetry receives in America: six-figure advances; thirty-five-city, all-expenses-paid tours; the private jet; the weekly mani-pedis. It’s just not fair. Translators should have some rights, sure, but I’d like to decide what those should be on a personal, case-by-case basis based on my vast experience in the field and my close reading of Ayn Rand.”
The president of another organization that works specifically in the area of literary translation (BASSA – Block All Safeguards & Support for Artists) was no less blunt. “Translators don’t need to know anything about politics or the economy or their legal rights. They should be at home, translating. Period. These people who write reports and start petitions—they’re not spending nearly enough time creating translations that publishers can then appropriate as their own. This is a system that is working great for the hundred or so people who are actually succeeding at it, and if completely selling out in order to be invited to David Remnick’s and Michael Reynold’s parties is good enough for them, it ought to be good enough for any translator. What additional proof do people need that absolutely nothing needs to change?”
If you or your colleagues have been abused enough, sign the petition, “Put A Stop To Copyright Rustling!”