Before you read this, I must make the disclaimer that I am not an attorney. I don’t practice law and I am not qualified to do so. Neither are the fine folks at Voice 123 attorneys. This article is simply to give you some suggestions as to things you may wish to address with a competent legal representative.
Say you place an audition on Voice 123, wherein you say you need someone to do some voice over work for a client who will see it on the internet and you are offering to pay $500 to the talent to record it. Generally, in lieu of any other type of agreement, the offer if accepted and acted upon is usually considered to be the terms of a covenant (or contract). Someone is accepting an offer based on clearly expressed terms.
So, now what happens if your client decides they want to use this work to make a presentation at a convention? Or perhaps your client wants to take a small part of the work and run it as a point of purchase video in their stores?
The simple answer is that neither you nor your client has permission to do so. You could just go ahead and use it and claim ignorance, which usually means lots of attorney fees for you and your clients, if you get caught.
Someone I know is currently caught in the middle of an action that might likely cost them over $100,000 by the time it’s over, and it wasn’t even their fault. Their client’s client screwed up, but they have the misfortune of being part of the chain that has them listed as one of the responsible parties being sued.
So what are you to do? There are dozens of various boiler plate Talent agreements one can adapt for almost any particular circumstance. In fact, just because it isn’t routinely done, there’s nothing to stop someone from writing up a non-union contract that offers residuals. Almost anything can be stipulated, even that green M&M’s be available at the recording studio. All that’s necessary is for the parties involved to agree.
These days, many of the companies looking to hire talent will often try to get the work done as a fully buyout. This means there is no limitation on usage, either where, how or for how long. Often the agreements contain language that might read something like “Talent allows producer the use of recordings in perpetuity, without restriction in any means of conveyance, storage format or communications device, either in existence or yet to be created…” That pretty much covers it all.
Other agreements can simply state the limits of use, such as “will air exclusively on local radio stations in the Dallas – Fort Worth area for a period not to exceed 6 months from the date of first airing”.
Agreements could also stipulate what additional fees might be, if the scope of the agreement might change. For example, in the aforementioned Dallas – Fort Worth agreement, we might add the paragraph, “Producer will reserve the right to renew this agreement on or before the 6 month end date by paying the talent an additional fee of $XXX.” Or it might say something like “Producer and/ or client may wish to run this commercial in Witchita, Baton Rouge, and Columbus Ohio, and agrees to pay the talent the sum of $XX for each of these three markets under the same auspices of a 6 month maximum run from date of first airing”.
If a formal agreement doesn’t look like it will happen, then you could send an email that recaps things as you understand them. Talent could additionally send an invoice that lists the terms and conditions on the invoice.
It is important to get talent releases and in some cases, projects that fail to get them are turned away by investors, broadcasters and other potential partners. Whether talent or talent seeker, be fair and understanding and respectful of the other person’s needs.
Photo by Kathryn Decker-Krauth