Why voiceover talent should be watching SOPA and PIPA

Posted on January 19, 2012 by

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Today, Voice123 attended an emergency NY Tech Meetup, organized as a protest against the SOPA/PIPA bills (Stop Online Piracy Act & Protect IP Act), along with hundreds of others from the New York Tech Community. While walking through the crowd, I came across actors, and voice actors, who wished to express some thoughts with me. After coming in from the cold…I write this post today to focus on why voiceover talent, no matter where you find work online and no matter where you live, should be watching SOPA/PIPA.

The first time I wrote about this a month ago, I saw some other voiceover websites share the article and mention their own casting sites “are never infringing upon copyrights”, and it made me laugh a little bit. It sounded like a defensive statement, and one I hear politicians say, right before a geek exposes their website and how little Congress knows about what they are doing. Sadly, human nature dictates that once a law is in place, you can use that law for both right and wrong.  The fact that you will have to defend yourself as a business in court means ‘bye bye money’, because you will either be hiring an attorney, or somewhere down the road paying for an expensive insurance policy, that will more than likely, never pay out to protect you.

Beyond that, think about jobs. Forget Voice123 for a moment. During the protest today, Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, asked the question to over 750 people, “How many of you in the tech community are currently offering jobs because of your business?”. Almost every single person raised their hand, myself included. When we first caught wind of these bills last year, admittedly we did not talk about it on Voice123. Looking back, I wish I had, especially after watching this debate on MSNBC between Alexis Ohanian and NBCUniversal Executive VP, Rick Cotton. What really stung when watching this:

  • Referring to the bills as ‘foreign policy’, and at one point, referring to other countries as “overseas”, which to me is sitting on borderline racism when you refer to anyone who consumes media as “people overseas”. Words become hateful due to the intent in which they are spoken. If you work at Voice123, you cannot help but think of the very talent who use the site from countries all over the world…and some of which belong to unions in the United States. We know they are good people, and not ‘pirates’.
  • Reddit co-founder bringing up that the problem is a service issue. He strikes at the very heart of a serious problem: Why have those with power in the entertainment industry made the choice to NOT innovate, but instead they try to stop innovation with “laws”, which parallels trying to turn a democracy into a dictatorship (something every creative artist fears).
  • I do in fact think of things that have happened with Voice123. Some who demonize Voice123, lose sight of the fact that we have reached out to powerful people on numerous occasions to discuss what we could do together with the site to help voice talent. At first, I thought, “Maybe they just want to do it themselves or work with someone else.”, but they NEVER did.
  • Finally…remember this quote in 1982, by Jack Valenti?  I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” The entertainment industry has a history of freaking out and predicting doom, every time new technology is introduced, yet those who grow to help shape it, are usually there to decide the future. Well, if you predict doom and do nothing to educate yourself on how to reach a new audience and still get paid for it, you have just self-fulfilled your own prophecy.

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Then there is Voice123…and the voiceover jobs…and the other sites out there offering work. We can use a real-life example of what could happen, if bills like SOPA/PIPA are passed:

  • Not long ago, a job was posted on Voice123, looking for a voice to make fun of the CEO of a popular company, which I cannot mention, but let us just say…This CEO shot an elephant.
  • The job was posted. Their legal team contacted us and we removed it. No harm, no foul, no auditions.

How it would pan out if SOPA or PIPA were in place…

  • This business would have the right to sue us, block our domain, possibly shut us down completely, while at the same time, possibly impose jail time.

Think about this…Over the past 10 years, due to strong voice talent support (because we would not be here…if you did not want us), Voice123 has offered tens of thousands of jobs, and processed close to 3 million auditions. Over the past 5 years, we have made amazing strides in quality assurance and technology, which has improved the quality of talent and work on the site through the process of hiring YOU, the voiceover community, to work here. To be completely fair, the same applies to other online casting sites, even those we compete with. To become a criminal overnight due to the ignorant, selfish legislation that serves to protect a select few, and damage opportunities for hundreds and thousands of people, perhaps millions, simply defies logic.

Imagine a bartender the day after Prohibition was passed…

Imagine a select group of people protecting their money, taking away work from thousands around the world. It should not be hard. All you have to do is think back a few years…

The scariest part in all of this is that those proposing the bill are completely unaware of what they are up against, and fail to see how the bill will actually make the Internet less safe, but tried to pass it anyway. From my seat, as someone who suffers from epilepsy, I would prefer Congress come together on a healthcare bill, before turning every one I work with into criminals. Worried about showing support, for fear you may upset possible work opportunities? Well, years ago, I remember how I felt when it seemed every bad decision I made “would cripple my career”. I had to drop out of the business completely just to realize, like it or not, you are much better off choosing a side that you believe in rather than playing it cool, and hoping a problem goes away. Voice talent do have control over their career, now more than ever before.

So…why should voiceover talent be watching SOPA/PIPA? You never know when your career may turn into a life of crime, or if you have to drop the job you love doing, because a new law made you do it. It is forever a smart idea to educate yourself on changes to grow with them rather than work diligently to stop change that is already working.

What do you think about all this?