Who owns rights to a book's translation?

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  • My father published three English-language books in the 1980s. They are now out of print. I inherited his literary rights when he died and I am intending to republish his works on the Internet using Amazon's Kindle books. No problem so far. However, some of the books were translated into Portuguese (for Brazil only), Danish, Swedish, Dutch, German, Greek and Japanese. Now I am thinking I would like to also publish the translated versions online but do not know who has the rights for the actual translations. Would the rights be held by the translator, the publishing house or would they be with the author? The contracts/agreements I've read don't shed any light on the subject.

    Also, what would be the recommended procedure if I wanted to reproduce the book covers? Some have original artwork and some don't.

    Thanks for any help you can give me.
  • If the translators went through the proper process, they should have negotiated for rights and signed a contract with the original publisher of your father's books. Translations are kind of a special case; it might be helpful to think of the translator as a sort of co-author who may have rights to the work they contributed to the text? So you may need to contact your father's US publisher and possibly the foreign publishers for each translation.
  • Thanks for that. I suspect that the translators were paid a one-off fee for their work without any ongoing royalties but obviously I'm not certain. I will endeavour to contact each publishing house and establish the facts.

    Assuming I have to negotiate a fee or royalty with either the publisher or translator to reuse the translations, what would be a ballpark figure to talk about? 10% of sales? 5%? More? Less? I have no idea where to start. And being an electronic publication with no fixed print run, it would be hard to define an agreement. Any suggestions?

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