Yes, You CAN Use Your Work In Your VO Demos

Hey, there!

Sorry, but there was an article over at VoiceOverXtra.com (love you, John!) that is completely incorrect, in its entirety.

And I have to make sure that you understand just how wrong it is.

In the article, the author warns:

I definitely would not suggest scoping to get copies of your work in order to “promote or advertise” yourself on your demos. For that, you need permission from the copyright holder to use their fully produced concepts and spots.

One thing talent seem to forget is that either the client or the agency owns those copyrights to their spots as a whole. [Use them, and] you’ll receive a distressing phone call or letter in the mail.

Just what kind of phone call, that is “distressing,” should I be concerned about? And from whom? The agency of record? The studio? The copywriter? The advertiser?

No.

None of them.

Do you think that any of the parties involved in the production of Heroes is going to stop me from using clips from that show on my demo reel?

Or anyone who helped produce the Coca-Cola/NASCAR radio commercials or the Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s TV spots I’ve voiced is going to ask/demand/sue me for using them in my commercial VO reel?

I’ve seen several articles like this, scaring actors needlessly. None of this is true.

Taken to its extreme, if you’re an author, you wouldn’t be able to promote your books. Why? Because you don’t own the copyright, the publisher does. If you were a musician signed to a label, by this logic, since you no longer are in control of your copyright (the label usually is), you couldn’t put a clip of your work in a promo package.

And I couldn’t use portions of the quoted article in this one, or use this blog post to promote myself as a fantastic writer.

I’m not sure where this is all coming from (and I don’t believe that the author is a copyright attorney), but using content you’ve helped create passes muster for all four fair use tests and exclusions in Sec 107 of the US Copyright code, tests which are specifically crafted to allow for the use any and all content from any and all work that we do, including for demonstration purposes.

The tests are:

!. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes (in our case, for education and career advancement, not to sell our demos)

2. The nature of the copyrighted work (it is always work we are in, demonstrating our capabilities)

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole (we are using clips, not the entire show/commercial grouping)

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work (we are not replacing an ad buy or a sale of the product or service)

And other services, like YouTube and Vimeo, completely agree. If your demo is automatically taken down because the fingerprinting in the content is detected, a simple email replying that you are using this content as a demo and your voice/likeness is in the content gets it put right back up. Here’s an article you can read on it over at my ActingAnswers.com site:

http://www.actinganswers.com/why-did-youtube-take-down-my-acting-demo/

There are no legal precedents for this kind of alarm – in fact, reporters should be writing to talent about how they CAN and have every right to use their work in their demos, and are encouraged to do so by the copyright law.

Relevant part of the code:

http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

The reason you won’t find any examples of this actually happening to talent is that it doesn’t actually happen.

What have you been told about what you can and can’t use in your demos? Let me know in the comments below.

Hope this helps.

David

Responses

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  1. David,

    I agree completely with everything you’ve said. The only caution I would exercise, is if the work is proprietary (pharmaceutical products that haven’t yet been released), time-sensitive (ads that won’t run until a future date, and need to be kept confidential until then), or anything else confidential in nature that is only for internal use at the client’s company.

    My $0.02.

    1. Absolutely – you should never even attempt to add anything that hasn’t aired already to your demo (how you’d get access to that would be interesting – for on-camera acting, you should always use the “aired” footage with the network bug visible). Agree completely.

      Wow.

      Craig and I in total agreement.

      Fantastic.

      David

  2. Wow! Amazing article!

    I too have heard the gloom and doom stories that warn talent against using prior released pieces in their demo reel. It’s nice to finally see a rebuttal with substantiated proof as to why it’s okay to use your work. Excellent article, David – keep em’ coming!

    OH! By the way…gotta take advantage of the open floor here since we’re talking about demos…If anyone is looking for an AMAZING demo, you gotta work with David. He produced mine and I just booked a job based solely on the demo. I didn’t even have to audition!
    Thanks, DAVID!

  3. Great, Dave… thanks for clarifying. Fair use has always been in play. An excerpt from one of my newscasts made it into a political ad last election, and there was nothing I could do, and nothing the TV station could do to stop it.

    Dave Courvoisier

  4. Bravo!
    I can’t believe anyone could write such an off-the-mark article.
    Has that person ‘ever’ heard a voice demo?
    I have…plenty…and I’ve recorded plenty as well, in my 30+ years!
    They’re made up of samples of my broadcast, corporate or other work…simple!
    The only time I can’t use stuff is when it has ‘not’ gone to air, or, in the case of animation clips, ‘before’ its first run.
    Warmest regards
    Abb

      1. Could you clarify that please, David? If I record a VO audition, can I use that in my demo even if I don’t get the job?

        Thanks for your articles; they’re always so useful.

  5. I heard on a podcast somewhere (sorry don’t remember where at the moment) that one of the things that might make a company angry is if they were tracking their analytics carefully and had released a project on different platforms to see which one performed better, and if the voice actor put the project on their website this might mess up their system. Do you think this could be a factor?

    1. Not in the least. You should be using clips, not the whole production, and even if you did, the amount of traffic any of users it talent profiles generate is an insignificant blip on their traffic radar. Not a worry whatsoever.