Foreign Language Translations
and Selling Foreign Rights to
Your Creative Product

Legal Translation of Publishing Agreements

Whether it’s a movie, music or book, there are many reasons to sell the foreign rights to your creative product. Essentially what this means is that you contract with a publisher, producer or distributor in a foreign jurisdiction in regards to the right to market your product. When this foreign market is non-English-speaking, then you will need not only a foreign language translation of your creative product, but also translation of your foreign rights contract.

As a general rule, US copyrighted work products require a separate copyright for the translated work products in accordance with the copyright laws of the jurisdiction where that translated version is being sold. Thus, you will likely need to file for copyright protection in multiple jurisdictions. Each of these copyright applications will need to be completed in the local language, meaning you will need foreign language translations of your original copyright status.

Apart from the copyright protection, you will also want to create specific contracts with each distribution company you are working with. Again, these contracts should be done in the local language or, at the very least, have a certified translation done for record purposes.

When drafting these contracts, you should define the specific language and territory granted. For example, if the contract is for the Russian language rights to your movie or book and for the Russian market only, your contract should clearly indicate this. Other items that should be included in your foreign rights contract include:

  • Duration of the license (typically this is seven years)
  • Reserves against returns
  • Frequency of accounting
  • Statement in regards to which party is responsible for such incremental costs as currency conversion charges and fluctuations in currency exchange rates
  • Design and creative control.

By far the most important part of your foreign rights contract is the section on royalties and advances. The amount of the advance is negotiable, but typically depends on the market (Japan, Germany and Spain tend to offer the highest advances), along with such factors as the potential market, price of the product, estimated production run and royalty rate.
On the topic of royalty rates, your contract should clearly indicate the rate for the first printing and all future print runs (royalty rates will traditionally be increased with each subsequent print run).

Other items that should be included in your foreign rights contract include:

  • Exclusivity and/or non-exclusivity
  • Terms of agreement
  • Payment form.

When conducting your negotiations for selling your foreign rights, it is essential that you seek the services of a foreign language translator who has experience in both copyright law and in dealing with such work product contracts. This will ensure that your foreign rights contract is both enforceable and representative of what you thought you agreed too.

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