Here’s How to Best Protect Your Voice Over Work
Voice123's The Booth
Nov 04 2021
Here’s How to Best Protect Your Voice Over Work
“That sounds just like me!”
This thought pops into your mind as you listen to a random TV commercial. The script sounds so familiar. You’ve heard it before – but where?
Panic starts to kick in as you search your emails. Suddenly you find that old script you’d auditioned for a while back, but never heard from the client again. And so your greatest fear comes true. A client has used your voice over without your knowledge, permission, or payment.
While this is a hypothetical situation, it is something that does happen from time to time when working with clients. It’s definitely not a common practice that should make you overly suspicious of every client, however. Still, it’s up to you as the voice actor to take suitable measures to best protect your voice over work.
Common misuses of voice over recordings
Having your voice over work used without payment or permission is a risk that a voice actor takes when submitting a complete recording. But not every file will be used without your knowledge. It’s also not always possible to keep track of how every recording is used.
Worst-case scenarios: For a voice actor, it’s having their recording used without permission, payment, or authorization. For a client, it can be a long complicated usage and/or payment legal battle that takes both time and money to resolve – or missing a deadline because of agreement delays.
How can these negative situations be avoided?
Although clear communication is vital when working with clients, timely communication is also necessary – along with adequate precautions. However, there’s no sure-fire way of protecting a recording. As there will always be workarounds to safety measures. But to help you make a well-calculated decision, here’s a checklist of practical steps to follow to avoid potential misuse of your voice over recordings.
- Research the client: If you find a script or casting that raises a red flag, do some research on the company.
- Keep up-to-date with the latest scams: Voice over forums, online groups or even online casting platforms detail scams that make their rounds. Such as the one that’s looking for a game show host or the promise of a check that includes your payment, along with a sum of money to send to another individual like a sound engineer. Well, that show doesn’t exist and that check will certainly bounce!
- Ask your network: If you can’t find any existing information about the potential client/company, ask online forums or respected mentors/peers in the voice over industry.
- Double-check suspicious details: Are you required to send any form of payment beforehand? Is the on-site studio legitimate, with proof of a real booking? Do the names line up? Are you required to send a recording of the full script?
A key takeaway for clients in this case, is to contribute to a faster process by only requiring a partial read, confirming where, when, and how long a recording will be used. Complete necessary payments in a timely manner, and be as transparent as possible.
What is an audio watermark?
Audio watermarks are utilized by some voice actors when working with clients. It might remind you of the watermarks you see on private documents with TOP SECRET or CONFIDENTIAL printed diagonally across the page.
Here are some common audio watermarks:
- Leave out a word
- Change a word
- Adding background music
Why watermark your auditions?
It’s like asking ‘Why should you wear a helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle?’ Essentially, it’s a form of protection, but not a complete guarantee. Keep in mind also that not every helmet is suitable for every cyclist. Helmets can be large, small, half, full, off-road, open, and so on.
In the same way, audio watermarks are also dependent on each person. There is no set standard. It’s also important to remember that audio watermarks can come across as distrustful and outdated. This is why there are varying opinions about watermarking and how to best protest your voice over work in the industry. The practice also differs according to each company, voice actor, and platform. And as the industry changes, voice actors are finding it more beneficial to spend more time assessing the legitimacy of a project before auditioning instead of relying on an audio watermark.
What is intellectual property in the voice over industry?
Audio watermarks lead to another important topic – intellectual property. This is basically anything that your intellectual capacities – in other words, your mind – creates. It covers a broad sector, so let’s focus on what you need to know and do regarding copyrights for voice over. But keep in mind that a legal professional should always be consulted in matters of copyright and service agreements.
- Set out your terms and conditions in a service agreement. Be specific and detailed. Always ensure that you have the client’s written agreement before proceeding.
- This written agreement should carefully highlight the exact usage and that only that usage will be allowed.
- If it’s a buyout for use in perpetuity, confirm exactly how it will be used. For eg, it could be a national ad this week and an international one next week. And in this case, what royalty payments will be offered to you?
- Will you receive any credit for the recording?
- Does the client agree to create or update the agreement with additional payment terms if they need to extend the usage?
But how does this translate into a message when working with clients? Here is a specific template that can be copied and tweaked to suit your needs.
Template: Asking about a project’s usage
Thanks for choosing me for this, excited to be a part of it.
I see it’s for use on _______.
Can you please let me know if that includes _______ and _______?
I also need to know the lifespan of the recording; how long will it live on ______? How many weeks, months, or in perpetuity?
To sum things up: protecting your voice over work can be done by taking adequate precautions, outlining exact T&Cs in a service agreement, and taking the initiative to inform yourself. Don’t suspect every client to avoid coming across as distrustful, but do put the right measures in place to best protect your voice over work.