Voice-overs, peer-to-peer recruitment platforms and IP rights: a survey of 200+ performers

This Kat has previously discussed the potential (negative) impact of online peer-to-peer recruitment platforms on intellectual property rights (see here and here).

Remember peer-to-peer recruitment platforms? They are online platforms that operate like ‘Uber’. But instead of arranging taxi rides, they broker the commissioning of bespoke creative content, such as logo design, video making or voice-over acting.

This Kat brings you more research on artists’ experience of these platforms and of their intellectual property rights – read on!

Online peer-to-peer recruitment platforms and creative professionals

Clients (companies, organisations or individuals) can now use platforms, such as Fiverr, PeoplePerHour, Quidjob or Upwork, to hire creative services from artists located anywhere in the world. These online marketplaces act as peer-to-peer recruitment platforms, bringing the business model of Uber to the creative sector: i.e. using the internet to enlist and match offer and demand. These platform providers remunerate their services by charging a fee for each successful transaction.

Like Uber, peer-to-peer recruitment platforms remove barriers to entry into the market for artists. No need for agents or contacts to ‘get' a gig. In principle, all you need to do now is create an account and do good work to secure repeat custom and obtain a good ranking on these websites. Also like Uber, this system allows both amateurs and professionals to become suppliers.
Peer-to-peer recruitment platforms differentiate themselves from traditional recruitment channels by their ability, and promise, to broker cheaper creative work. This can be a problem from an intellectual property standpoint, as explained in this previous post.  
Leaving potential threats to IP rights to one side, could peer-to-peer recruitment platforms be useful to or ‘good’ for artists in other respects? Could these platforms bring value or benefits to artists, which would justify the way they undercut intellectual property rights?
Look online for testimonials written by artists using these platforms, and you will find an overwhelmingly positive response. Speak to the creative professionals with experience of these platforms and [in this Kat’s experience] you will get a very different response: i.e., online peer-to-peer recruitment platforms are despised by [some] professional artists.
So who’s right? This Kat was keen to dig further to try and find out. To this end, an online survey was launched, using voice-over performers as a case study (why voice-over performers? see, here).
Participants were asked how they secured work, whether they valued recruitment platforms, how they negotiated contracts and their knowledge of intellectual property. This Kat was particularly interested in finding out whether concerns she had as an [intellectual-property-minded] outsider looking in, chimed with the point of view of artists.
Detail on the survey method and instrument can be found here.

The survey results

Circling back to our initial question: Can these platforms bring value or benefits to artists, which would justify their undercutting intellectual property rights?
Well, results are in, and the answer is no – according to the majority of 200+ respondents. More detail on the survey results follow (for the full report on the survey responses and data analysis can be found here).

#1 Voice-overs’ recruitment is mediated and the present of online recruitment platforms is growing
Survey results evidence that voice-overs secure work via mediated sources more often than they do directly from their clients. Mediated sources refer to agents, recording companies or work secured via peer-to-peer online recruitment platforms.
Peer-to-peer recruitment platforms are making their presence felt as a recruitment method by clients or source of work for voice-overs. 64% of the respondents stated being registered with at least one of these platforms. One-half of respondents report that they secure up to 25% of their paid work via these platforms.
Another 17% work via online marketplaces regularly (between 25% and 50% of their paid work), whilst a further 15% secure the majority of their work through them (over 50%).
#2 Voice-overs rate online peer-to-peer recruitment platforms as exploitative
Survey results unequivocally evidence that online peer-to-peer recruitment platforms are perceived very negatively by voice-overs, who describe them as “poor value”, “exploitative”, “unfair” and of “low quality”. Whilst part-time voice-overs also described online platforms negatively, they noted that they could nevertheless be a “useful” source of work.
This suggests that this type of recruitment method does fulfill a need on the voice-over market, catering notably for those engaged in the industry on a part-time basis. However, negative attributes far outweighed positive ones.
In sharp contrast, voice-overs’ rating of their working experience with agents, end clients or recording companies are significantly more positive. pointing to professionalism, fairness, respect and trust in terms of the quality of the working relationships.
Traditional agents are the most highly rated (noted as particularly knowledgeable), followed by end clients and then recording companies.
#3 Voice-overs negotiate contracts over emails
Survey results reveal that the use of written contracts, summarizing the key aspects of a transaction, is extremely rare. Emails (a form of written agreement) remain the preferred method for conducting business and fashioning an agreement, followed by telephone conversations. Over 13% of the voice-overs who participated in the survey report referring clients to their own terms and conditions, (which voice-overs publish on their professional website), during negotiations.  
#4 Voice-overs rarely negotiate intellectual property rights for lack of knowledge
Voice-overs report that they sometimes, albeit infrequently, raise the question of intellectual property rights in the context of negotiations. This is consistent with low levels of unawareness or knowledge disclosed by respondents about intellectual property rights.
Around half of the respondents indicated being familiar with intellectual property rights (40.2%), including performers’ rights (57.3%). A similar number of respondents (46%) report referring to intellectual property rights in negotiating their contracts.
That said. less than a third of the participants (29.7%) claimed to know the difference between assignments and licences of intellectual property rights, or being aware of equitable remuneration rights (26.8%). The overwhelming majority of voice-overs (82.8%) admitted having no knowledge of the Copyright Tribunal.
#5 Voice-overs are un-represented by union and representative organisations
The majority of voice-overs (82%) could point to a union or organisation that they felt acted as a representative body. Three-quarters of them (73.2%) named Equity (followed by the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) at 6.6%). However, only 13% of voice-overs believed themselves to be adequately represented by the organisation (here, Equity). 

Voice-overs, peer-to-peer recruitment platforms and IP rights: a survey of 200+ performers Voice-overs, peer-to-peer recruitment platforms and IP rights: a survey of 200+ performers Reviewed by Mathilde Pavis on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 Rating: 5

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