Monday 4 May 2020

Why do Voiceover Artists need to be aware of Performers Rights?

How many voiceover artists don’t just merely speak the works on a script but actually perform? You all perform, we know you do. We watch and hear you deliver your copy lines and we know that you are performing. And with performances comes rights. Right got that?

There are a few and they include the following: reproduction right, distribution right, rental and lending right, making available right and the right to equitable remuneration. Now yes that is a lot all right but let’s continue. 

We will discuss equitable remuneration shortly here but let’s stick to this list first. The reason many of these rights were introduced was the advancement of technology. What now? Yes, as technology got nifty, smaller and easier to carry people started recording performances at cinemas and theatres and other places where people performed. These people then sold those unauthorised recordings. Oh crumbs – well that isn’t nice is it? Also the quality would be awful so again crumbs.

Rightly so, the government decided to introduce new rights. These are here:  Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (the CDPA as it is snappily known as). Look at the section 182. It covers the right of the artist to authorise a making of a recording of their performance. Then they can seek royalties for the usage of recordings of their performance. Yes we know, we know!

Then we find that as well as those other rights we have moral rights. But what exactly is this? Simply, this is the right to protection of the integrity of the performance against derogatory treatment. Yep so that recording of fishy singing cannot be taken and chopped up and made into a rude song to rival Baby Shark for example. These rights last for a while, 50 years from the end of the year in which the performance takes place.

But if then a recording of that performance is released publicly then the duration is extended for another 50 years from the year end of that year when it was released. Fishy, we will be hearing you decades from now. What a treat.
Show me the money! No, literally show me the actual remuneration rights please. And what are remuneration rights?  These are rights to ensure that performers get receive equitable revenues from the owner of the copyright in the sound recording or the film capturing their performance.

Equitable is the key word here. It is a little like how long is that piece of string so always ask what equitable means to the client. It also means that there are measures such as the “20% fund” which requires record producers and companies to pay organisations representing performing artists 20% of the gross revenue generated by the commercialisation of sound recordings performances during the additional 20 years of protection. Phew fishy, this is getting complicated. Well yes indeed it is and that is why we work hard to ensure our voices get heard (we know right? The irony) and more importantly paid equitably.

So now you are thinking, well what exactly is a performance? Yes immediately we will think of Fishy on stage in a dance or a music act (I am thinking of Fishy wearing fishnets and shaking some shells on the sea shore) but it also includes reading or reciting a literary work or any performance of a variety act or similar presentation.

Now if it is for consumption by the public of a script for any sound recording you make then surely that is a performance? It can be complicated so it depends if the performance falls within the definition. It also depends on what the performer brought creatively to the table.

 Fishy and our voices are all unique which means they bring their experiences and creativity to the table. Not one person shares the same voice so we feel it would fall into this definition. Now then, I know what you are all going to ask. What exactly is a performance then? 

Is Fishy recording away thoughts and feelings and copy an actual performance. And that is where we first started. When we talk about performances in a sound recording then things change in terms of period of usage. There is an additional protection period following release to the public which is 70 years rather than 50 years. So in effect, they are granted an additional protection of 20 years in comparison to other recording types.

A note on a doubling up of roles. The same artist may be able to have both copyright and performers rights in their contribution to a creative piece of work. So Fishy who is acing in a piece as well as directing it or producing it means they get to enjoy the copyright of the text as well as the performers rights when Fishy records the voiceover of the text.