THE DUTCH Writers' Association VSenV has fought off an attempt to declare its agreements on fixed minimum prices for translations and minimum royalty percentages for writers and translators to be in breach of competition law - in effect a cartel. The rates are agreed between VSenV and the Publishers' Association.
After "communicating excessively on the highest level with the the Dutch National Competition Authority (NCA), hand-in-hand with the Publishers' Association", VSenV learned that the NCA regarded the fixed minimum prices for translations of literary work (in 2007 5,9 Eurocent per word) to be what it called "hardcore" provisions under the Competition Act, and the minimum royalty percentages for writers and translators to be "softcore " provisions. If these findings were upheld, VSenV and the Publishers' Association faced a high risk of a huge fine.
Negotiations opened, and independent writers got articles into national newspapers about the competition authority's disproportionate action. Eventually, VSenV and the Publisher's Association on agreed with the the NCA the following:
- the NCA will not take any action in the field of literary writers and translators since it has no priority;
- the VSenV is not allowed to advise on fixed minimum prices and these prices have to be removed from the standard contracts; but the VSenV will be allowed to provide information and present these prices on its website as 'normal in the field' and 'based on historical experience' (in a strict phrasing);
- the minimum royalty percentages ('softcore' provisions) in the standard contracts for both writers and translators will stay;
- future standard contracts by the VSenV and other parties will be handled in the same way.
VSenV will carry on working to establish these rules in law, to avoid further problems.
- Information on fixed minimum prices for translations can be found on the websites of both the VSenV (www.vsenv.nl) and the Netherlands Publishers' Association (www.nuv.nl). Later this year the new VSenV website will include the standard contracts in English.
- See our report of earlier rulings on EU competition law
that have affected freelance rates guides in Holland and Ireland.