Copyright and Contracts

Book and literary translators must keep in mind intellectual property rules governing both the works they’re translating and their own translations. The Literary Division is providing the tips below as a basic primer. They do not replace the advice of a lawyer.

Laws governing copyright and contracts for literary translation and publication vary according to the country of publication and the country of origin of the work being translated. Make sure you have a clear idea of what rights belong to whom before you begin your translation project.


The Author’s Guild Literary Translation Model Contract is the best model contract for a translator working with a US publisher. It contains helpful commentary for each provision.

PEN Model Contract for Literary Translations:

The Literary Translators’ Association of Canada has a model contract updated in 2020, available in both English and French:

The old ATA Guide to a Translation Services Agreement, and its June 2023 revision as the “Model Job Contract for Independent Language Contractors” (download here; ATA login required),¬†are designed for technical/commercial translation, and only applies to literary translation if you are translating as a “work for hire.” It has no provisions for registering copyright or other terms that will protect the translator’s intellectual property rights.


Information for U.S. copyright translations may be found in Clifford Landers’ Literary Translation: A Practical Guide, Topics in Translation #22, Multilingual Matters, December 2001.

U.S. Copyright Office – Copyright Registration for Derivative Works

Neither the ATA nor the Literary Division, their officers, agents, contractors or employees are responsible for the opinions and data set forth in the links.

[link-library settings=3]