Intellectual Property in Voiceover Work

In this article we talk more about a couple of legal terms every voiceover actor should know about. This protects us from getting into trouble we might not even know about but we might pay consequences on later and also helps us understand how to protect our work. defines “intellectual property” as “the ownership of ideas. Unlike tangible assets to your business such as computers or your office, intellectual property is a collection of ideas and concepts.” takes it one step further defining it as “Documented or undocumented knowledge, creative ideas, or expressions of human mind that have commercial (monetary) value and can be protected by copyright, patent, service-mark, trademark, or trade secret laws from imitation, infringement, and dilution. Intellectual property includes brand names, discoveries, formulas, inventions,know-how, registered designs, software, and works of artistic, literary, or musical nature. It is one of the most readily-traded property in the digital marketplace.”

According to, there are three ways to protect intellectual property in the United States. One can do so through the use of trademarks, copyright and patents.

Voiceover can be protected by copyright. Other categories of work protected by copyright are: literary works, musical works, including any accompanying words, dramatic works, including any accompanying music, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic and sculptural works, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, sound recordings, architectural works,
computer programs (sometimes the graphical user interface), and websites. hastens to explain that ideas are not protected by copyright. Copyright protects the expression of the idea, not the ideas themselves. Copyright protection gives the copyright holder the exclusive right to copy the work, modify it, and distribute, perform and display the work publicly.

The trade in voiceover work is a voice talent’s voice which a client pays for. Once it is bought and paid for, the voiceover work becomes the purchaser’s property. There might be some contention here so it is advised that before you work with a client – review the script and ask all the questions that you can. Are there terms and conditions you should know about?  Where will the recording be used? Will you be given credit for your work? How long do they plan to use the recording? Will there or will there not be royalty pay, especially for audiobook voiceover projects? Are they willing to pay for additional licensing?  Negotiate with your client if you think you deserve more than what is being offered. Come to an agreement or walk away. Simple and yet, not so simple. However, like all business transactions, you want to make sure that everything is laid on the table before you come to an agreement. In addition, ensure that you do things in writing. For example, when asking for permission if you can use the recording on your own website. That way, no one can go back and say permission was not granted and you are infringing on their rights.

Another example of this is mimicking the voice of a famous personality or a celebrity on your demo. An impersonation that misleads the listener to think they are hearing a real celebrity endorsement, then the real celebrity can take legal action. Theories include appropriation of personality, and passing off. Even if your intent is to not mislead, it is still best to ask for permission or consent and again, to do so in writing.

Was there a time you had to learn any of these the hard way?

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