The UK VO community and Equity have been shocked by recent tweets from The Voice Realm. The behaviour on display, though sadly not new, has tipped into offensive and indefensible. But it is also an indication of how some companies see the VO industry as a cash cow and regard its members, not as artists and professionals, but as an inexhaustible supply of fodder. This has got to stop.
P2P/work hub platforms, in the voice over sector, have broken previously established norms. Previously, there was a relatively small community of full time professional performers, working through their agents or directly and regularly with their own clients. Rates of pay and terms of service
were directly negotiable between the end client and the artist (or the artist’s rep) and there was a reasonable equality in the bargaining positions.
It can be of little surprise then to the voiceover job sites (operated collectively by a handful of people) that voice talent who have been around for a long time, and who have spent years establishing their careers, are very angry. They have lost volumes of work. Their pay has gone down exponentially and dangerously. Fees are being creamed off substantially by intermediaries. Copyright laws in their respective countries have been broken and disregarded. This been happening for the past 15 years and they have reached boiling point.
In recent years, record companies, unions and collecting societies have pushed back across the recorded media industries, as an unregulated digital marketplace has matured. The campaigning has been extensive and lengthy. As result, in the past 24 months, two major pieces of legislation (globally) have come into force and artists in more than 60 countries are now afforded performer’s rights – and will in the coming months and years be using the law to push back at the P2Ps and their customers – who will no longer be able to hide behind legal jurisdiction and argue that their terms are simply “work for hire”. It is far more complicated than that, as the owners of those sites well know.
As two of the major players are based in the US (TheVoiceRealm) and Canada (Voices.com) – which do not support performers’ rights in law- it is worth reminding them that from July 2021 the EU copyright directive will give ALL EU performers these rights:
From April 2020 the Beijing Treaty came into force in 33 countries:
Existing copyright law for sound recordings:
This law has been flouted for years by the job sites.
A note on copyright case jurisdiction in the UK
Blanket global terms, then, will no longer wash. This is not a matter of opinion. A legal framework is established and the potential repercussions for the vo job sites and the paying clients who use them are enormous. NO EMPLOYER is going to want to use these platforms if they are not certain that the contractual arrangements they enter in to comply with the laws of their own countries, or in the countries in which they wish to broadcast content. And they don’t currently, in many cases. Localisation services should be taking note.
A major piece of research is currently being undertaken by a major IP faculty at a major UK university on P2P terms in the VO industry, and the findings will be published within the next year and made available to the UK government, Equity, SAG, the FIA , the collecting societies and the press as part of an ongoing campaign to see the Beijing Treaty fully ratified in the UK.
Executive findings of of the pilot study. More to come.
Similar action is being taken in the US. Both the UK and the US are signatories to the Beijing Treaty and therefore have agreed to support its aims.
To those running P2P job sites on global terms in creative industres where IP is a major factor, we would suggest seeking legal advice to make sure that your terms of contract with performers comply with international and local laws. And to do it quickly. Talent want a level playing field. International law makers and the European Union have at last acknowledged that they are entitled to one.
To The Voice Realm, Voices.com and the others in this market – it’s over to you now.