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Let's talk about voice over copyrights and usage. Are they really necessary?!


man next to microphone in booth
Serge in his home studio

So you'd like to understand how fees and rates for voice-overs work and how they're calculated.


Before diving into the details, let me tell you what information I need to provide an accurate quote quickly. This will help you see why it's tough to have a fixed rate for all projects. Each project is unique, so each quote is different.


To give you an accurate estimate, I need at least the following information:


  • Script or Preliminary Script: Specify the number of words or the duration of your project.

  • Usage: How will you use my audio? In a commercial, e-learning, web video, etc.?

  • Advertising: Will your project be advertised? Online ads on Facebook/YouTube? Radio or TV ads? Or just on your client's website and social media?

  • Project Length: Is it a 30 or 60-second commercial? A 1-minute or 15-minute web video?

  • Customer’s Name: Is this for a multinational like Coca-Cola or a small boutique shop selling soap in a rural town? This helps me estimate how many "ears" will hear your project. (You can read more about why this is necessary in this blog).

So, let's chat about those rates and fees!


Few voice actors post their rates on their websites. So annoying, right? Can't they just post their fees and be done with it?


I try to be as transparent as possible with my rates so you immediately know where you stand.


Speed is one of my keywords and assets, so I think you should also be able to find out what I charge for a voice-over recording quickly.


But… it's not that easy to give one rate for my voice-over work. If you don't feel like reading the info below, don't worry. Send me an email with as much information as possible about your project, and I'll be happy to make you a quote.


Understanding Voice Over Copyrights and Usage

Would you like to understand how voice over copyrights and usage are calculated? Hold on tight, here we go!


The voice-over market is divided into separate rate structures for web videos, explainers, IVR, e-learning, commercials, instructional videos, etc. This is standard for the voice-over world. Unions in the US, UK, Germany, and many other countries calculate this way, so to make transparent comparisons between different voice talents, it's strongly recommended to adopt this structure.


Fees generally depend on several factors:


  • Medium: Where will the recording be used? (Radio/TV, non-paid online, paid online)

  • Reach: How many “eyes” will see the project? (Is the video B2B or B2C? Will this be a major advertising campaign throughout Belgium or just for your accounting department?)

  • Project Size: Is it a 20,000-word e-learning module? One or six commercials of varying lengths? Are there tag-ons and billboards?

  • Script Complexity: This is especially important in e-learning. Does the script contain jargon or technical terms? It helps if the script is well-prepared with pronunciation tips, possibly with audio examples or links to pronunciation resources like forvo.com or youglish.com.

  • Explainers, IVR (telephone systems), and e-learning each have their own rate structure. Most other projects are divided into a "recording fee" or BSF (Basic Studio Fee) and "usage."


Basic Studio Fee (BSF)

The recording fee, or BSF, is the hourly rate for recording the text. The BSF includes recording your script, adapting it to spoken language if needed, and cleaning up the recording (removing breaths, eliminating mouth noises, post-processing, etc.). My BSF is 300 euros ($350) per hour. I do not charge VAT as I am based in the US.


At least one hour of BSF is charged regardless of the script length. The number of words in a script isn’t always related to the rate. Some scripts are complicated and require extra time for pronunciation, which is included in the BSF.


For some clients and projects, the BSF is all that needs to be charged, with no additional usage rights. Generally, voice actors don't charge usage for the following projects:


  • E-Learning: Calculated per word, usually starting at 0.25 euros per word, with a minimum of 1,000 words/250 euros. The rate also depends on the project's difficulty.

  • IVR or Voicemail: Send me your script, and I’ll be happy to make you a quote.

  • Explainers, Product Videos, and Web Videos: If they are not going to be advertised. If you plan to advertise (also called "paid media"), additional usage fees will apply.


Usage Fees

Usage, licensing, buy-out… different terms for the same thing: the right to use the voice of the voice-over in your project. The usage fee is added to the recording fee.


But why are they needed? The voice actor keeps ownership of their voice recording, even if they record your script. The customer does not own the audio recording of the voice-over. You can't just cut the voice recording into pieces and use it in other projects.


To better understand how this works, think of the music industry. If you want to use Bruce Springsteen's music in your project, you need permission and must pay for the right to use it in that specific project. The same principle applies to voice-over work.


Buying Out the Usage in Perpetuity

Sometimes clients ask if we can agree on a fee for unlimited usage rights. To be clear, voice recordings not used in advertisements do not require licensing. Usage fees are due when you actively advertise your project.


In reality, commercials, web videos, and product videos are advertised for about 3 to 5 years. After that, the content, brand and/or editing becomes outdated. If you or your client still want to continue advertising after 3 years, we can extend the license.


As a voice actor, I can't give full rights in perpetuity since my income depends on recording voice-overs for commercials. Allowing unlimited usage would prevent me from recording for competitors of that company. To compensate, I’d have to charge a very high amount for unlimited use, which isn’t realistic. Instead, I suggest buying advertising rights for 3 years.


Legal Aspects

In addition to practical considerations, there’s the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, effective April 28, 2020. It grants performers (including voice actors) rights to their performances, including reproduction, distribution, rental, and making available. Performers have the right to receive royalties or equitable remuneration for any use of their performance.


The Future Outlook for Usage Rights in Digital Content

As we look ahead, usage rights are transforming with the ever-expanding digital realm. New forms of content like influencer marketing are evolving, and so is the complexity of licensing laws. Regulatory bodies are considering adaptations that could lead to more unified regulations or platform-specific rules.


Staying Informed and Compliant

  • Regular Updates: Stay ahead by keeping informed about the latest legal changes. Regulations can shift quickly, and being out of step can lead to violations.

  • Understanding Rights: Thoroughly understand the rights attached to every content piece you use or produce, including AI-influenced content.

  • Respect for Creations: Respecting and complying with copyright laws and licensing agreements is crucial for legal safety and ethical integrity in content use.


Emerging Technologies and Challenges

AI’s influence on content creation and distribution challenges traditional copyright concepts. New legal frameworks may be necessary, so staying compliant involves understanding current laws and anticipating future changes.


In conclusion, the future of usage rights in digital content is poised for significant change. Businesses need to prioritize legal education and compliance strategies to stay competitive and responsible in the evolving digital landscape.


Best Practices for Effective Usage Rights Management


Develop a Centralized Asset Management System

Implementing a centralized repository is crucial for managing usage rights efficiently. This system houses all digital assets, including images, videos, and documents, allowing for consistent monitoring and management of their licenses. By centralizing these assets, you mitigate the risk of unauthorized use and simplify the process of locating and utilizing marketing materials. Utilizing a robust digital asset management (DAM) system can enhance this process by enabling the tagging of assets with critical information such as usage rights, license expiration dates, and other relevant details.


Educate and Train Your Team

Equally important to managing your digital assets is ensuring that your team understands the importance of usage rights. Education and regular training sessions help keep the team informed about how to verify usage rights, renew licenses, and recognize restricted content.

Beyond routine training, cultivating a deeper respect and comprehension of copyright laws and licensing serves as a preventive measure against violations. Organizing workshops with legal experts can provide valuable insights into the nuances of intellectual property rights, stressing both the ethical and legal implications of misusing assets.


Summary

Incorporating these best practices into your organization will lay a solid foundation for managing usage rights. A centralized management system ensures that assets are correctly used and easily accessed, while comprehensive team education fosters a knowledgeable and compliant marketing environment. This dual approach not only protects your company legally but also supports a culture of respect for intellectual property.


Understanding the Risks of Ignoring Usage Rights

Ignoring usage rights can have severe implications for any business, from startups to established corporations. When a company uses copyrighted material—be it images, text, music, or video—without proper authorization, it risks copyright infringement. This error can lead to legal battles that might result in expensive settlements or court-ordered payments. Additionally, the company may be forced to stop using the infringing content, causing delays and possibly derailing marketing campaigns.


The Impact on Business Reputation

The consequences of copyright infringement extend beyond direct financial losses. A business’s reputation may suffer if it's seen as dishonest or negligent. This can erode trust among customers and business partners, potentially leading to a decline in sales and a damaged brand image. Restoring reputation and consumer confidence can be a lengthy and costly process.


Proactive Measures to Avoid Copyright Infringement

To steer clear of legal troubles and protect their reputation, businesses should adopt several strategies:

  1. Education: Ensure that all team members understand the importance of usage rights and are aware of the legal implications of copyright infringement.

  2. Permission and Licensing: Always obtain explicit permission from copyright holders before using their materials. This may include negotiating licenses that clearly state how the material can be used.

  3. Use of Asset Management Systems: Implementing a robust digital asset management (DAM) system can help businesses keep track of copyright information and usage rights for all their content. This system essentially serves as a central repository for all licensed materials and their conditions of use.


How can businesses navigate the acquisition of usage rights for images, videos, and music?


By taking these proactive steps, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of copyright infringement, avoid financial hardship, and preserve their valuable reputation.


Acquiring usage rights for voice-over content is crucial for businesses to avoid legal pitfalls and ethically use creative audio. Here’s how to navigate this complex domain effectively:


Understand the Basics of Usage Rights

Usage rights are the legal permissions granted by copyright holders, governing how their work can be used. Understanding these rights is foundational when planning to use any voice-over content within your business operations. Conduct due diligence to fully comprehend these rights before utilizing any intellectual property.


Conduct Thorough Research

Start with these steps to ensure you're using voice-over content legally:

  • Perform Script and Audio Checks: Ensure that the voice-over script and audio are original or properly licensed. This can provide clues about who owns the rights and whether you can legally utilize the content.

  • Utilize Voice-Over Talent Agencies: These platforms often outline the rights associated with each piece of content. Using professional voice-over services can simplify the process of content acquisition.

  • Check Copyright Databases: Reference resources like the U.S. Copyright Office's online catalog to confirm the rights status of a particular piece of voice-over content.


Obtain Explicit Permission

If the usage rights are unclear, or if you plan to use content in a way that is not previously authorized, reaching out directly to the copyright holder is a safe approach:

  • Direct Communication: Contacting the voice actor or their representative directly can clarify any doubts regarding the usage rights. It's always better to ask and get permission rather than assume.

  • Maintain a Paper Trail: Whether through licensing agreements or simple emails, keep records of all communications and permissions. This documentation will be invaluable in safeguarding your business against future legal issues.


Be Aware of the Consequences

Ignoring or bypassing usage rights can have severe consequences:

  • Legal and Financial Risks: Copyright infringement can lead to lawsuits, fines, or both. The legal costs alone can be a significant financial strain on any business.

  • Reputational Damage: Being caught in a legal battle over copyright infringement can tarnish your company's image, result in loss of consumer trust, and affect your market standing.

  • Operational Disruptions: In cases where infringing content must be removed, you might find your campaign halted abruptly, leading to further financial losses and strategic disruptions.


By following these guidelines, businesses can effectively navigate the acquisition of usage rights for voice-over content, ensuring compliance and ethical use of intellectual properties.


So, that was quite something! You've made it to the end of this explanation. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of why usage and licensing are necessary for voice recordings.


Send me an email so I can give you a quote: serge@sergedemarre.com







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