Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

3 Things You May Not Know About Audition Scripts

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

November 5, 2008

Comments (14)

Copyright

When you are auditioning for a job, regardless of its source, there are 3 things you need to be wary of once you send off the MP3.

Curious?

Find out here at VOX Daily!

Audition Scripts

When you receive an invitation to audition for a voice over job, oftentimes a client will include their script and the opportunity presents itself for you to make one of two decisions:

1. Record a snippet of the script as a custom demo
2. Send a generic demo and hope for the best

While that seems fairly basic, I'm going to throw in some more factors that may be new to you.

3 Things You May Not Know About Audition Scripts

1. The script is property of the client (or, if not the same person, the copyright owner whose job is being posted by the client) and is protected under copyright law.

2. A custom voice sample, once recorded, does not belong to you but to the client and or the copyright owner who posted the job.

3. You cannot legally use custom auditions recorded from someone else's copyrighted script as spots on your voice over demo or for any purpose other than the audition in question itself without consent from the copyright owner.

What Does All of This Mean?

Custom voice over samples for audition purposes, albeit recorded by you and featuring your voice, ultimately belong to the creator of the content. The creator of the content could either be the person who posted the job or a separate individual who created the content.

Even though the voice over recording was created by the voice actor, the original copyright holder owns the recording as the voice over is an expression of their creation (script) and intellectual property.

When you send in an audition, it is understood at the outset that the sample being provided is for review purposes only (for both the client and voice talent) and is not meant to be incorporated into a demo or used for promotional purposes unless written permission to do so is granted by the individual who owns the copyright.

You are bound by your integrity to observe copyright law and act accordingly.

The client is also bound by integrity to do the same for you. Unless they pay you for your work, they should not be able to use it to further their own pursuits.

Industry Concerns

Although this information is commonsense for businesses and is readily available to all via the Internet, in books and through legal counsel, for some reason it is rarely spoken of and is not a widely known subject in voice over, at least in non-union circles.

Primarily, I'm referring to the use of copyrighted material or trademarks in scripts for voice over demo production without the consent of the copyright or trademark owner, or the use of custom samples in demos as mentioned above.

We've discussed this to a degree in the past and you can read that discussion here if you like about brand names of companies you haven't worked for being used in demos.

Don't get me wrong, there are many upstanding companies out there who do produce voice over demos from original material or royalty-free music and scripts -- this is not about them -- it's about companies or individuals who sidestep the law and take advantage of unassuming customers.

The spread of misinformation to do with demo production or custom auditions, whether it be conscious or unconscious, affects our entire industry and it needs to stop.

My hope is that through articles like this we'll bring more awareness to the subject and take action as a community through education and accountability.

Making Things Clearer and Doing Our Part

Just as you would expect that the client has no right to use your voice samples without compensation, it is to be understood that each custom voice sample submitted by a voice talent is not to be used by the voice over professional for the purpose of commercial promotion of their voice or for any other purpose other than what the file was intended for - a sample of your voice submitted through an audition to be reviewed by the client for hiring purposes.

Coming Up

In the coming weeks, I'll be featuring an interview I did with a lawyer who specializes in trademarks and intellectual property. This gentleman has a keen interest in law as it affects technology and the online world, so I hope you stay subscribed to find out more!

Any comments? What do you think about this?

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/murat $en

Related Topics: business, copyright, demos, industry, intellectual property, law, Non-Union, union, voice acting, voice over


Comments


    Definitely interested in the upcoming interview.

    As it's such a cross-border industry now and with many discussions about the opposite of what you described also (i.e. Clients using VO's recordings without telling them and that they do not pay for) it will be interesting to hear your lawyer's comments.

    Daniel

    Posted by:

      Good article. And good things to remind talent of...
      That's all I got. And that is my intellectual property - I will now give you my permission to post it. Although, I don't believe I need to. Ha ha...I'd better check with my attorney.
      E

      Posted by:

        Hi Stephanie,

        This is some really good advice and it brings to mind another important reason to not use audition material on your demo. Aside from the material being the property of the writer and or company, you wouldn't want a well established company AUDITION mistaken for the actual job. It may lead a client to believe that you recieved the job and hire you on the basis that you've worked for a company you haven't. You don't want to misrepresent yourself in a demo!

        Great article!

        Ashley Huyge

        Posted by:

          Stephanie,

          Very important point you've made here. Because we've all cut a custom audition at some point and said to ourselves, "that came out very well, maybe I should hang on to that spot for a demo".

          Thanks so much.

          MLF

          Posted by:
          • Mike Forrester
          • November 6, 2008 2:26 PM

            Hi Stephanie.

            While I agree with you that recording audition material on your demo can get you into legal trouble and I would advise against it (as an attorney and as a voice over artist), I do take issue where you say that a voice over artist's recording of an audition becomes the property of the entity who wrote (or copyrighted) the script. I consider this a grey area of copyright law as applied to voice over, and I would submit that WHERE the audition recording took place would be one factor in deciding who "owns" the copyright to that actual recording.

            A voice over artist is the one that brings those words on the paper to life and interprets the emotion behind those words, and then RECORDS those words in a form that is JUST as copyrightable as the script itself. If this recording is done in a voice over artist's studio, at the voice over artist's cost, and on the voice over artist's time, I would argue that the voice over artist owns that actual recording. If however, the recording is done at a studio other than the voice over artists, I would agree that the artist has no ownership right to the recording.

            I compare this to when a songwriter writes a song, he/she copyrights the sheet music and lyrics to the song, but when it gets recorded in a studio by a recording company, the company owns the actual reels upon which the music is recorded and can be copyrighted separately. I believe it is the same as with this situation with a voice over artist.

            The owner of the script MAY argue that the audition done in a talent's studio is a "work for hire" and thus the recording becomes their property, but unless that is in writing, which it usually is NOT at the audition phase, there would be nothing preventing the voice over artist from registering the recording with the US Copyright office (ala the record company) because I believe a very strong argument can be made that the recording with their script is a "joint work" just like a lyricist and musician have when they collaborate on a song. If, however, the recording was not done in the voice over artist's studio, I believe a Court would find it WAS a "work for hire" and the property of the creator of the script.

            Another important point here about copyright law is that a copyright arises upon creation of a copyrightable work, BUT unless and until the creator registers it with the US Copyright office, they can NOT sue for infringement or any other statutory remedy.

            I have oftened wondered how much voice over copy that is used for auditioning (or copy that was aired for that matter) is actually registered with the copyright office? If it is registered, usually the author makes a point of putting a copyright notice on it like "Copyright, 2008", etc, to put people on NOTICE not to use the work without permission, or face charges of intentional and not innocent infringement.

            If one thinks about it logically for a second, why would a company want to copyright it's commercials in the first place?? If someone "steals" them after they have aired on TV or Radio (and airs them on Youtube for instance), what ECONOMIC HARM is that going to cause the company??

            And what DAMAGES would the company be able to prove in Court against someone who uses the commercial on a DEMO?? The commercial was produced for PUBLICITY in the FIRST place. It is completely unlike where someone copies a TV show or movie or book and then tries to pirate it by selling it to someone (or posting it on YouTube).

            Or, completely unlike the case where someone illegally downloads a song without paying for it to listen to it. All of the above cause economic losses to the holder of the copyright, and THAT's what the copyright law protects agains! Just my opinion but I don't believe anyone is losing sleep over voice over artists putting NATIONAL commercials on their demos. Nor do I forsee any hotly contested lawsuits over the issue anytime soon. In fact, I researched this issue a number of times and found NONE to my knowledge EVER!!

            I will post a more specific reply under David's post about using trademarked names, etc, on demos with my legal spin on that as well.

            Thanks for letting me comment.
            Rob Sciglimpaglia


            Posted by:

              Hi Rob,

              Thank you for your thoughts on this as a lawyer in the United States. I appreciate hearing your opinion, but before we get too far, I'd like to make the distinction that the article I wrote was from a Canadian perspective, not an American one, and in Canada, copyright is automatic - a creator need not apply for the copyright to be issued one for their intellectual property.

              It all comes down to integrity and presenting an authentic image.

              If you didn't do the work for a client, and merely submitted an audition, you cannot use the material on ethical grounds in my opinion, for a number of reasons which I'll list below:

              1. If the voice artist was not selected to brand the company's image, their recording is misrepresenting the company's brand.

              2. If a recording was not chosen and by virtue of that fact was not compensated for, it really shouldn't be passed off potentially as something that voice artist was compensated for or chosen to do. That is misleading.

              3. While an already aired piece makes it's way on YouTube, whether through the company's channel or by means of a fan uploading the clip unlawfully, yes, it does present that company with more promotion and publicity which was the original purpose of the ad, HOWEVER, and this is important to note, it was the approved version of the final cut from the company, not an audition that may or may not be the ideal or official voice of the company.


              As the co-founder of a company, I know what it means to develop a brand, nurture a brand and hire someone else to help bring that brand in a meaningful way to the public using voice over. Would I want a voice over out there that I didn't choose promoting our company and using our script from a posted audition?

              The answer is a resounding NO.

              Why? Because that's not the way we chose to brand our company using voice. There are reasons why people get hired and also reasons why they don't. This isn't a statement that is meant to incur injury, it's just how business works.

              Let's take another look at the scenario you presented wherein the talent records from their home and uses their own resources to do so.

              Based upon your logic, one could argue that a voice talent could record a copyrighted excerpt from a national bestseller or even an entire audiobook as read from the pages of a book by a living author and use it for their own promotional means, without consequence, even though the work is not in the public domain and the voice over could potentially misrepresent the author's intent and their brand.

              There are grey areas as you said Rob, and I feel it's important to make distinctions, even in the midst of these shades of grey. I've been planning a series since the summer to be posted on VOX Daily called "Shades of Grey", and the issues of copyright, trademarks and so on are on the menu.

              I thank you for adding your voice to this and will also address the comment you left on David Bourgeois' article.

              Sincerely,

              Stephanie

              Posted by:

                Hi Stephanie.

                We definitely agree that recording an audition script for a demo is both legally and ethically wrong. American copyright is also automatic upon creation of a material, but the owner is not allowed to sue for infringement unless and until the copyright is registered. I am not sure of the Canadian requirement, of course, because I don't practice law there, and most of my vo work is here in the US, and in particular New York City. :-)

                All I am saying is that a voice over artist is NOT a helpless soul with no remedy should a dishonest poster of an audition decide to use the audition without compensating the artist because I believe a voice over artist COULD take their sound recording here in the US and copyright that and make a VERY strong argument that it is a "joint work" that is being used without compensation, and actually sue the producer for copyright infringement. The voice over artist CERTAINLY brought that script to life and put it in a form to be broadcast over the airwaves.

                To address the scenario you raise as to to whether you can take an excerpt of a copyrighted novel and record it in your studio and use it for "promotional" purposes, (if by that you mean an audio book demo), the answer to that question is that is likely ALSO not going to result in any legal action against the voice talent. How recording an excerpt of a book would misrepresent the author's intent or brand is beyond me, or how that would cause ANY damage to the author is also beyond me.

                On the other hand, the novel would certainly have already HAD to have been registered with the copyright office because there is actually a registration requirement in the US once something is published, so of course, the owner/author could take any means they wish to "protect" their brand under the Copyright Act.

                But, I had actually raised the question as to how much commercial copy is actually copyrighted by registration so as to trigger the ability to bring a lawsuit under the Act, which, of course, is a very different scenario than the published novel (or screenplay for tv show, movie, etc.)

                Thank you for posting my response, and for your response!

                Rob Sciglimpaglia

                Posted by:

                  Hi Rob,

                  Thank you again for sharing your views and also for adding so much lively debate and for finding common ground in this discussion.

                  To further the discussion, I agree with you that if a dishonest client were to take advantage of a voice talent, air their audition and not properly compensate them that the voice talent has legal rights to pursue justice in that matter.

                  There are so many elements that I could have covered in this article but for simplicity's sake, I decided to focus merely on the issues presented and to explore others at a later date.

                  I'm very much looking forward to chatting with you in New York (we'll be at the same mixer as per the RSVP list) and meeting you in person :)

                  What we should draw from all of this is that the topic is a sensitive one that many people care about and it deserves further research and debate.

                  Thank you Rob for your insight and I also welcome thoughts from others on the topic should you like to jump in.

                  Cheers,

                  Stephanie

                  Posted by:

                    Hi Stephanie,
                    This is a very interesting topic, and one I've pondered for quite a while.
                    I agree that it's not appropriate from an ethical or professional point of view to use audition material in your demo. It really is a gross misrepresentation of that particular brand/company.
                    However, I do believe that there is no harm in using audition material in a demo reel, provided that:
                    1- It does not mention the brand or company.
                    2- It does not use any slogans or catchphrases that suggest that the talent is associated with that particular brand.

                    I regularly use audition material in my demos, but not in any way that suggests that I actually voiced that project.
                    If a brand IS mentioned in my demos, it is because I was selected for that project.
                    As a matter of professional courtesy, I also only use this brand-specific material in demos with the express permission of the client.
                    Cheers!
                    Steve

                    Posted by:

                      I have been trying to find useful scripts for my first demo reel. What I have been looking at is using snippets of copy that don't mention any product names or by writing my own copy that is similar in tone to a copy I have heard, but isa completely original. From what I am reading, both choices are legally sound. Any comments from those of you who are far more versed in this matter than me?

                      Posted by:
                      • Michael Maurice
                      • November 8, 2008 11:27 AM

                        I hold up my hand. Guilty as charged. I didn't know it wasn't permitted to use an audition piece as a demo. Mistake corrected though! I've replaced the offending bit of voicework with something that's a hundred times better anyway. Thanks for the heads up Stephanie. You're a dear!

                        :D

                        Posted by:

                          So, with all this copyright infringement discussion, maybe it might be a good idea to do a blog on were someone might get demo material. I always thought that I could ask for a copy of the finished work to use for my demo here on voices.com. I figured if they gave it to me, then I can use it. Is that wrong?

                          Tom

                          Posted by:

                            Hi, Stephanie!
                            ...Wow. Uh, that changes things, a bit, for me, anyway. I'll be keenly interested in the lawyer interview,...and maybe changing a few demos I have listed. ...oof.

                            Posted by:
                            • Bill Hollis
                            • August 31, 2011 11:57 AM

                              Some good thoughts.

                              I was advised to create quarterly audio records of studio work and get performance copyrights on the bulk.

                              Advice also did include that a paid session audio result, even a paid audition, really is their material. That differs from the open audition audio, which only features their copyrighted material.

                              Thus I own the "performed by myself" open audition sound file audio rights, but not the content copyrights, which is what would allow me to sue the client if they use it without payment, and which would allow them to sue me if I tried to sell the content and audio file of that content elsewhere.

                              The logic being that it is implied/understood is that the script copyright holder allows permission to perform the work in order to receive the sample.

                              My next question to my advisor was, "If I can prove it was an open audition, can I say "Audition" before the piece (or would I even have to if I could prove it was an open audition) and THEN use it as a VO sample component legally, as I will not be selling the content, only showcasing my own ability to perform that content.

                              Argument hit the table then that a prosecutor would say that getting a job based upon that exhibition of ability to perform would be argued as being compensated for that content.

                              I got a cold stare back when I answered back that logically they'd have to have proof that the listening future client bought the vo sample instead of only hearing it when considering their own content to be provided, and I always urge clients to not try to do "the other companys' commercial", but to do their own.

                              Harlan Hogan did not lie when he said only fifteen percent of one's time is spent in front of the microphone.

                              My advisor referred me to an entertainment lawyer, whom I cannot yet quite afford. So this is a good conversation.

                              sincerely,

                              frank baum

                              Posted by:
                              • frank baum
                              • September 1, 2011 11:06 AM

Leave a Comment



Recent Articles

Apple App Store Video Preview Is A Gamechanger

Don't Ignore Your Vocal Health

Microsoft Buying Minecraft Creator Will Drive Mobile Voice

The 3 Things Voice Pros Can Learn From Sir Jony Ive

Don Pardo's Final Voice Lesson

iPhone 6, 6 Plus & Apple Watch: Studio On The Go for Voice Pros

Apple iWatch Could Drive Voice Over Market

How Localization Unlocks Business Growth Potential

Are You a Self-Made Voice Over Actor?

Slate In Character Or Don't Slate At All

   

Upcoming Webinar

Localization Webinar

Join us for a free webinar on how localization can help expand the use of all your voice-over work for new markets, new services and reach new heights with your business!

Register for the webinar

Subscribe by Email

About Vox Daily

Vox Daily offers a daily dose of voice acting news, articles, tutorials, interviews, intelligent conversation and business ideas for voice talent and voice actors.


Follow Us

   

Our feed & social options update you with special offers and news as it happens.

New YouTube Video

Watch videos on YouTube