I have heard the argument both ways. So I'd like to hear UNIVERSE opinions!!!! Some say producers simply will not listen to ANY audition that contains a watermark. Others say we should always protect our work. What say U?

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Watermarks? My, we like ourselves, don't we. (grin)
Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Actually, you're not talking about watermarks. I was always taught that watermarks are silently encoded into the signal flow and on playback thru a decoder/sensor a flag would trip saying it is protected. CBS had experimented for years with this on LP records and CD discs. They don't use it.

What you're talking about is a WARNING LABEL!!!! I, personally, have never used one for an audio track. And besides if the "producer" was that stupid, he'd be out of business pretty quick.
I have no problem with a audio note, quickly, in front, just once. "This material is owned by ____ All Rights Reserved" But, I still don't do that for Audio. Probably because I send out so much stuff every week.

Now, for video, I take a cue from Walt Disney Productions. When I send out a Betacam or something that has high quality, I do either one of two things. Print a thin red diagonal line across the video. All the way thru. or send them a TC Burn with "Property of ____" below the TC. There is no way they can use it. But again, I haven't needed to do that in the last 5 years.
Maybe I'm getting more trustworthy clients. (grin)

Best Regards
Pat
www.appleson.com
MESS UP YOUR DEMOS, PLEASE!

Don’t ever think it won’t happen to you. I guarantee you it will, and when it does, it will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. A few years ago, a colleague of mine got a disturbing phone call. It was an old friend from high school. “I didn’t know you were in the voice-over business” he said. “I was listening to our latest promo at work, and I said to myself: I know that voice. And it finally dawned on me: it was you. Great job, man. You’re really good at what you do.”

THE SCAM
“Where exactly do you work?” my colleague asked, quite puzzled. It turned out to be some unknown up-and-coming ad agency. “That’s strange… it doesn’t ring a bell for me, and I practically have a photographic memory for every job I’ve ever done”, my colleague said. A day later, when going through a list of past auditions, he found the answer. About a month ago, he had sent in a demo for an ad agency through one of the voice-over sites, and never heard anything back. Until now.

Under normal circumstances people might say: You win some, you lose some. Isn’t that part of this business? That might be true, but there’s only one word for these despicable practices: THEFT! And my colleague allowed it to happen. Everybody knows not to walk around with your wallet sticking out of your purse. It’s an open invitation to pickpockets. But when it comes to our demos, some of us are doing just that. Perhaps I should repeat the advice my biology teacher once gave us, while covering a certain subject: use protection! You have two options to prevent shady producers from running off with your audio file: watermarking and -my personal favorite- messing things up.

DISTURBING SIGNALS

You’ve probably seen watermarks on pictures, rendering them practically unusable. The same can be done for audio files. Some recording software has this effect built in. Your demo will either have some weird buzz in the background, or some noise under part of your read. You can also buy separate watermarking software or… produce the sound effects yourself! Imagine smashing up a couple of plates while recording your demo for that Greek restaurant commercial… Of course this can become quite distracting, and if I were you, I would want people to pay attention to my brilliant performance, and not to some nasty tone or the sound of breaking china. This brings me to option two, which is even more creative.

I usually twist a few things in the copy. I recently did an IVR (interactive voice response)-demo, and I purposely changed the numbers a little bit (”for sales, press five hundred and sixty six, for customer service, go to our competitor”). I believe I also said: “If you don’t know your party’s extension, please dial it now”. For some of you that might be stretching it. Alternatively, you can also leave out a word here and there, but whichever method you prefer, be sure to let the voice-seeker know that you did this on purpose. Otherwise they might think that you recently escaped from a SaVoa Clinic for frustrated voice-actors (Society for aimless Voice-overs anonymous).

TAKE IT TO COURT?

Eventually, my colleague called the agency that ran away with his demo. Much to his surprise, they immediately admitted using his audition. “We used it to have the team listen to the type of voice we were NOT looking for”, they said. “This was for internal purposes only”. Some ad agencies take the art of spinning to a whole new level! My colleague also called a lawyer to find out if he had a case. After all, what had happened was an infringement of copyright. Here’s the good news: the lawyer was up for it. The bad news: his retainer was more than what my voice-over colleague had made in six months. Sometimes it’s better to count your losses and smash up a couple of plates.

Paul Strikwerda
© 2009
from my Double Dutch Blog
MESS UP YOUR DEMOS, PLEASE!

Don’t ever think it won’t happen to you. I guarantee you it will, and when it does, it will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. A few years ago, a colleague of mine got a disturbing phone call. It was an old friend from high school. “I didn’t know you were in the voice-over business” he said. “I was listening to our latest promo at work, and I said to myself: I know that voice. And it finally dawned on me: it was you. Great job, man. You’re really good at what you do.”

THE SCAM
“Where exactly do you work?” my colleague asked, quite puzzled. It turned out to be some unknown up-and-coming ad agency. “That’s strange… it doesn’t ring a bell for me, and I practically have a photographic memory for every job I’ve ever done”, my colleague said. A day later, when going through a list of past auditions, he found the answer. About a month ago, he had sent in a demo for an ad agency through one of the voice-over sites, and never heard anything back. Until now.

Under normal circumstances people might say: You win some, you lose some. Isn’t that part of this business? That might be true, but there’s only one word for these despicable practices: THEFT! And my colleague allowed it to happen. Everybody knows not to walk around with your wallet sticking out of your purse. It’s an open invitation to pickpockets. But when it comes to our demos, some of us are doing just that. Perhaps I should repeat the advice my biology teacher once gave us, while covering a certain subject: use protection! You have two options to prevent shady producers from running off with your audio file: watermarking and -my personal favorite- messing things up.

DISTURBING SIGNALS
You’ve probably seen watermarks on pictures, rendering them practically unusable. The same can be done for audio files. Some recording software has this effect built in. Your demo will either have some weird buzz in the background, or some noise under part of your read. You can also buy separate watermarking software or… produce the sound effects yourself! Imagine smashing up a couple of plates while recording your demo for that Greek restaurant commercial… Of course this can become quite distracting, and if I were you, I would want people to pay attention to my brilliant performance, and not to some nasty tone or the sound of breaking china. This brings me to option two, which is even more creative.

I usually twist a few things in the copy. I recently did an IVR (interactive voice response)-demo, and I purposely changed the numbers a little bit (”for sales, press five hundred and sixty six, for customer service, go to our competitor”). I believe I also said: “If you don’t know your party’s extension, please dial it now”. For some of you that might be stretching it. Alternatively, you can also leave out a word here and there, but whichever method you prefer, be sure to let the voice-seeker know that you did this on purpose. Otherwise they might think that you recently escaped from a SaVoa Clinic for frustrated voice-actors (Society for aimless Voice-overs anonymous).

TAKE IT TO COURT?
Eventually, my colleague called the agency that ran away with his demo. Much to his surprise, they immediately admitted using his audition. “We used it to have the team listen to the type of voice we were NOT looking for”, they said. “This was for internal purposes only”. Some ad agencies take the art of spinning to a whole new level! My colleague also called a lawyer to find out if he had a case. After all, what had happened was an infringement of copyright. Here’s the good news: the lawyer was up for it. The bad news: his retainer was more than what my voice-over colleague had made in six months. Sometimes it’s better to count your losses and smash up a couple of plates.

Paul Strikwerda, from the blog DOUBLE DUTCH
Yes, Paul is correct IMHO. But you are aware we're in an awful business. It's called Advertising. My favorite episodic is Mad Men.
But, reality is much worse.

The other gotcha is, any intellectual property attorney, (no not the kind you meet drinking in a bar) will tell you, that to maintain your ownership of the product, you go after any one that makes a wrong move, win or loose. It shows the court you have a history of actually protecting you property. (Disney does this all the time to big and small alike) And, then you must prove that you were damaged. In Philip's case it's pretty easy to do.

While I don't keep a lawyer on retainer. I do have a long term relationship with one that specializes in federal copyright law. The first step I have him take is send out the old Cease and Desist letter. He warns everyone (not threaten, warns) like the idiot ad agency, plus the Radio or TV station/s, plus all the other electronic media outlets in the same market and the "talent" agency if any. Bad news travels fast, the the very last thing that a Radio or TV firm with a Air License wants to become involved in, is something like this. They'll yank it off the air.

Now, will you become popular at the next ad fed meeting? I don't know. I can tell you that I have had similar situations in the past
but I didn't care, and you know what? After a few years, I'm the one still in business. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

But as I mentioned in my thread below, most all of my clients, I know personally and trust. We've worked for many years together, on different projects. After you get out there and more well known, you will also benefit from it. Over the years I've also pulled back on print advertising to zero, today. I have started dropping all pay VO dot com sights, because I feel you get lost in the shuffle. And while there is nothing wrong with this site, I don't feel you're going to get discovered here. IMHO, it's just Jocks trading war stories with other jocks. Yes, Jocks, that's what we were called. Today, it's voice over artists. But, that's ok.

The biggest negative to me, IMHO, is the number of out of work Broadcasters both radio and tv, who turn to doing V/O's and think they all can make a living. At the same time, you have every one who's been told they have a good voice, sending out demo tapes like crazy.

Best regards
Pat
www.appleson.com

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