Tuesday 2 June 2020

Should a Voiceover Artist sign a Work for Hire agreement?

We’ve written a lot about rights that voiceovers should be aware of. As a voiceover agency and recording studio we work hard to keep on top of all this for our voices. We are always aiming to get all the information from clients as well as educating them to ensure they know about intellectual property and copyright. 

Now Fishy will take us through the final rights (wait what? Oh right not that last rites, rights rights). Yes, let’s talk about Work for Hire agreements (WFH). Many voiceover artists have been asking about this and so here is the latest about it all. We’ve discussed creative work previously. Overall, in the UK and in many places such as the USA, copyright sits with the author of the work of art. So, Fishy voices the words in some copy. Let’s say Fishy is an employee of BigFish Media. So far so good. In this case the work that they create during their day job is subject to copyright. Note that because Fishy is an employee of BigFish Media and thus with rights such as holidays, sick leave etc then work would come under BigFish Media in terms of copyright.

However, in the situation that Fishy is not an employee and simply swims up and blows bubbles at the mic for an hour then we could suggest that we get Fishy to sign a WFH. It would make us, BigFish Media the copyright owner of those Fishy bubble sounds. So Fishy would relinquish their right to being that owner.

However there are certain categories that can make the work exempt such as (1) a contribution to a collective work, (2) a part of a motion picture or other audio-visual work, (3) a translation, (4) a supplementary work, (5) a compilation, (6) an instructional text, (7) a test, (8) answer material for a test, (9) an atlas. Another point is that the work must be specially ordered or commissioned and have a written agreement where the parties use the “WFH” phrase.
So Fishy must have more than a verbal agreement on this. The WFH must be negotiated and though not necessarily signed before work on the project begins. Retroactive WFH is not permitted. 

It is not legally possible for a UK voice talent to sign away their copyright but many websites (based in USA or Canada) which insist on their voice talents signing WFH agreements have this term buried deep in their terms and conditions. 

If you sign a WFH agreement, then you are signing away your copyright. They own your audio and can re-sell your voiceover recording to someone else, or to another platform or application. They will get paid for the additional usage. But you won’t.

Here at BigFish Media we do not allow our clients to use the audio recordings of our voiceover talents for any platform and duration other than that which has been agreed by all parties. Voiceover recordings are not the work of the client or a third party, it is the work of the voiceover artist.