Tag Archives: Poland

How Poland got PLR (SUCCESS STORY)


2018 is the 3rd year PLR money is being paid out in Poland. The money (around 4 milion PLN in total) comes from the national lottery or other state-sanctioned gambling which feeds a special cultural fund. PLR money goes to authors (75% of the whole sum) and publishers (25%). Only authors of books written in Polish are remunerated, and they include writers, translators, and illustrators and photographers (in case of comics, picture books, albums etc). So the translator gets the money but not the foreign writer whose book has been translated. Translators receive 30% of what an original author would receive for the same number of book loans. It is an opt-in system, which means that it’s up to the author to sign in and enter all their books into an online system (where each ISBN is considered a different books, so you need to keep track of different editions if you want to make sure all of them are counted). Afterwards, if you’ve added any titles in a given year… you need to print it all out, sign it and send it by regular mail! (Because they need your signature.)

There is a lot of criticism concerning how the book loans are counted. Since there is no one digital library system in Poland, not all libraries feed their loans data to the PLR system. Quite on the contrary, the ministry of culture has drawn up a list of “representative libraries” (updated once in the 3 years, I think), which consists of some… 65 libraries or so. It’s not exactly clear how they were chosen and by whom, but they are supposed to be diverse enough to represent all of the readers: they’re from all around the country (but some regions are not represented at all), from some large cities, some small towns and the countryside. Obviously it’s a flawed system, but probably more so in the case of original authors – whose writing might be strongly connected to their region – rather than translators, whose translations are probably loaned more or less equally on average. Also, as a principle only public libraries are included in the system. No school or university libraries there.

What happens then is they take that “representative” data and use it to divide the money among authors. So there is no per-book-loan rate; rather, it depends on the number of authors participating and their relative share of the pie. The downside being, as PLR becomes better known and more people sign in, they individual payouts go down. The money was best the first time around, when less people knew about it. The overall sum available goes up every year (they currently have the sums planned until 2024), but its not fast enough to make up for the growing number of authors in the system, which was over a 1000 the first time around, and some 2000 afterwards, I think. There is also a top and bottom cap. The bottom cap is around 20 PLN (so if the calculations say you should get less than that, you get nothing, in order to avoid costs of processing it), and the top cap is around 20.000 PLN (so if you’ve translated “50 Shades of Grey” or you’re that one super-popular Polish crime writer who has been churning out about 6 books a year, you get no more that 20k even if the calculations say you should get more – so that there is still money left for everyone else).

“Why be a member?” An STL video project in Poland (SUCCESS STORY)

In 2017, the Polish association STL made a series of short YouTube videos, in which members shared why they were part of the association. Even though they all had different reasons, they mostly talked about the social aspect of being part of an organisation of this kind, as well as about the opportunities for help and exchanging information, and being educated on and assisted with the legal aspects of the profession. They shared one video a week on their YouTube channel and their Facebook page, which did result in new memberships.

STL also has secured considerable discount for its members at a very good Warsaw law firm specialised in copyright, affordable health insurance and even a fitness card. Where the health insurance is concerned, STL was invited to join an existing initiative by a fellow association. The whole group consists of members of several different types of authors’ associations, such as translators, journalists, graphic artists, musicians, and photographers, and they have all signed with one of the largest private medical companies in the country at a considerable discount. The initiators of the idea even negotiated a package tailored to the needs of workers in the creative industries.

Translation: Dorota Konwrocka-Sawa, I translate from English. I’ve been a member of the Polish Literary Translators Association for a year. Before, I worked a journalist in a weekly magazine for many years. When I started working exclusively as a literary translator I realized that what I missed the most was my editorial team, a group of friendly people I met every day, who helped me solve different professional problems and who did what I did. I was hoping I would meet such a group of people in the Polish Literary Translators Association – and I was right. I found it. I meet them every day on the literary translators’ forum on Facebook, I meet them once a month, or sometimes more often, at translators’ breakfasts, translators’ dinners, sometimes I manage to simply get them go to the cinema with me. What’s important for me is that I’m in constant contact with a group of people who are friendly towards one another, who aren’t really in competition, even though we all compete for commissions from the same publishers, but who help one another every day, looking for quotations, trying to come up with the best equivalents from idioms, to figure out the full meaning of a sentence; who, just like me, want the translated text to be the best it can be.

Translation: My name is Rafał Lisowski, I’ve been a member of STL for 4 or 5 years. What this membership has given me is the feeling that in our seemingly lonely book translator’s profession we are far from alone, that we are a professional community with similar needs and problems, that we can count on one another, and together, when we are numerous, we can achieve more, get more done, we can learn something. Myself, I’ve learned a lot about law, about negotiating, about the book market, and I also have the feeling I can do something for others in STL and outside of it. I’ve also met a lot of great people, brilliant translators who, when it come to translation itself, can help me out and I can help them out. That’s fantastic and I think it hold a lot of promise for the future.