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When and Why NDAs are Used in Voice Over Contracts

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

May 14, 2009

Comments (10)

Man covering his mouth with his index fingerIf you've been in voice over for any length of time and are doing well, you may have run across situations where your client has made you sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or advised you not to share that you are the voice of their campaign, product or company.

Although you may have had to sign one, have you ever thought about why you were asked to and what the motivation behind that request was?

This article covers a number of reasons why non-disclosure agreements could be used in voice over contracts. If I've missed one, let me know!

NDAs

An NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is a confidentiality agreement, usually between two parties, that is signed agreeing not to disclose certain details of a business deal, which can often include clauses that prevent individuals from sharing that they have even worked together.

Could NDAs Be Used to Fuel the Fire of Fanatical Debate?

In our industry, a lot of high profile work goes uncredited in a public sense, for example, commercial campaigns for Apple's iPhone TV commercial that aired in 2007. One report said it was the voice of John Krasinski of the hit television sitcom, "The Office". When we covered this story, (it was just breaking), all of a sudden people started popping out of the woodwork denouncing the claim, strongly suggesting that someone else, a Glenn Martin who worked for Apple, had recorded the voice over, not Krasinski.

So, like any good journalist would do seeking truth, I set out to contact Glenn Martin's agent and also telephoned Apple's public relations department to get a confirmation. The agent never responded to my email to confirm and Apple's lips were sealed, not confirming or denying who the voice was.

After more research, I found that Glenn Martin did at the time have an Apple spot on his demo, however everyone in a position to officially confirm the information was mum on the subject.

Perhaps allowing the controversy to continue brewing worked more in their favor than actually confirming who it was because it kept their brand and commercial alive in discussions on the topic, with people on both sides of the argument passionately asserting their opinions.

NDAs Can Be Used to Serve and Protect

There are instances where NDAs are used to keep something under the radar, including the contents of the script, in order to protect someone or a particular group of people. One such example can be found in the expert panel discussion at the 2009 Voice Coaches Expo when it was said that a friend had recorded voice overs for a branch of law enforcement specific to prison guard training. By not revealing the contents of that script or potentially the name of the artist, an entire profession is protected because that information is not disclosed.

NDAs Enforced For Corporate Preservation

Sometimes NDAs are used from a competitive standpoint, hiding the identity of the voice talent, producing an incognito VO as a result. One example that I can think of is how America's Republican Party, during John McCain's run for the presidency in 2008, chose to conceal the identity of their campaign voice "Joan", stating that her identity was a corporate secret.

We'd Rather Nots for Intrigue, Mystery and Awe

You may find that you are not bound to an NDA legally but there is still an air of, "We'd rather you didn't promote the fact that you recorded this," which makes you hesitant to claim the work as your own or mention it in detail on your resume. While there are no technical or legal restrictions, you may feel bound by your desire to keep working for the client and agree to not list them among your recent customers. By not openly revealing who did the voices for something, a company may be trying to maintain an air of mystique, or perhaps, magic.

Disregard For Credit Where Credit is Due

If you find none of the above were the case but you still were not credited for the work (assuming it would have been reasonable to do so), there is reason to follow up and see if it was an oversight. Recently, I reviewed an audiobook that upon first glance, had hidden tracks. To my delight, I excitedly wrote about the extra material that I considered to be a bonus and contacted the voice talent to congratulate her on her work, only to find out that she, although featured narrating 4 tracks on the CD, had no idea that her work had gone uncredited on the CD packaging and on the publisher's website. This product had also been nominated for a Grammy! Upon this realization she decided to follow up with the producers to inquire to see if it was indeed an oversight. Considering her talent and involvement in the project, I sincerely hope that is was an oversight.

How About You?

Has something similar happened to you in an instance where crediting talent is customary? Check it out and see if you can resolve the issue! That's one great way to get recognition for your work that goes beyond a paycheck.

If you have any comments that you'd like to add about your own experiences, or comments to do with the article in general, you're welcome to join the conversation with your thoughts.

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/RickBL

Related Topics: Apple, Disney, Glenn Martin, industry, iPhone, John Krasinski, Monorail, ndas, non-disclosure agreements, TV, voice acting, voice over


Comments


    By the way, I forgot to mention this one point:

    If you have done work that you are not at liberty to discuss, don't share that information in what you may consider to be a private newsletter that you send to people on your list! Word has the potential to get out, and by including that information, you are going outside of your agreement, even if it isn't a public display of that knowledge in a forum online, press release, on a blog or the like.

    Just thought I'd add that in there. I'm on a number of mailing lists and sometimes see work that interests me as a writer only to discover when doing my due diligence that the credit for work is actually tied to an NDA and can't be released!

    Looking forward to reading your comments,

    Stephanie

    Posted by:

      Several of my clients have either had me sign an NDA, or they told me before the project started that they the material in the script was highly secretive and not meant to be shared with anyone else. There was even an issue one time with my client being nervous about me posting the audio file on my ftp site...wanting to be sure the directory was password protected so no one else would have access to the file. They also notified me the minute they had downloaded the audio so I could delete it from the ftp directory!

      I sometimes will save auditions to use for other auditions and this made me think twice about the possibility of mistakenly sending some of this secret stuff to a person who should never be able to hear it!

      larry

      Posted by:

        NDA's are pretty common for me since I sign these for a lot of the work for the US Government. SHHH! Also, there are products out there with my voice in them for the first time this year and STILL can't tell anyone.

        However, I can keep a secret and chuckle when I hear myself. It still thrills me that it's my voice even if no one else knows. :)

        Posted by:

          I've had to sign a few as well. Most recently for a feature length animated film I just finished and another for some eLearning I'm scheduled to record end of May.

          The only unusual thing requested of me in a contract was exclusivity of a certain character voice I do. That was a tough one to noodle so I just passed it on to my agent to figure out.

          Posted by:

            I had to sign one for Philips Global Brand Marketing. Even the audio engineer was asked to sign one.

            Posted by:
            • Kevin Darbro
            • May 15, 2009 2:55 PM

              I can not talk about all the details but the song GONNA MAKE YA DANCE by Brian Billionaire featuring Daphne is sung by ME and is available on itunes.

              Posted by:

                The world can surely be a funny place. A few years back I voiced a powerpoint presentation for a major bank for the internal training of their personell. I got to read their entire sales strategy, including the arguments they used to convince clients to buy their products. Note that I'm not saying which bank it was and what their strategy was. I consider it a given that a voice-over keeps any such knowledge confidentional. But they never asked me to sign an NDA!

                On the other hand, last year I did some character voices for a computer game. But the first thing the producers of that game asked was if I was willing to sign an NDA, which I did sign.

                This kinda made me think that the worldwide financial crisis might have been avoided if the people at the banks were as professional as the makers of the computer games! ;)

                Posted by:

                  Before I retired, I worked in the advertising industry: in the print production segment of the industry. Working for an agency behooves one to be willing to sign non-disclosure statements if and when required. It's sort of like being a lawyer and being a part of the client confidentiality scene. It's a sensitive area and requires your own sensitivity towards it. If I don't think that I would like to be associated with certain types of announcements (perhaps of a religious or even industrial--cigarettes for example--I simply do not respond to the audition request. While I've never been in the position, if I found that the subject matter were distasteful in some way, I would opt out of it on whatever grounds I found offensive at as early a stage as possible.

                  Richard Mullen

                  Posted by:

                    NDA's are often thought of as being fairly standard documents - but don't be afraid to explore the reasons behind it in a particular job. Is it the content itself that's the issue? Is it knowing who the voice artist is? Or is it knowing that the product even exists? If, for example, its just the content, and the voice actor would like to use the job as a sample - the buyer may be happy letting the voice actor do that - so long as the buyer gets to approve the portion used.

                    Posted by:

                      Hi David,

                      Thank you very much for adding your thoughts and perspective! I greatly appreciate your input.

                      Best wishes,

                      Stephanie

                      Posted by:

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