Core ValuesDo freelance voice over professionals need a code of ethics?
Evaluating the construction and adoption of a code of ethics may be something to consider.
How do you feel about the idea and what would you hope to see in a code of ethics for the voice over profession?

While many talent on an individual basis have made the step to adopt a code of ethics for their voice over businesses, it seems like the right time to pose the question of whether a more encompassing code of ethics for voice actors and voice over professionals in North America is in order and if it would be beneficial moving forward.

The term “Code of Ethics” implies that a body of people with very similar objectives agrees upon certain key points that will clarify their position on issues pertaining to their work, particularly where morality and procedures are concerned. As a popular reference, Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean had a code loosely based upon the actual Pirate Code of the Brethren.

Andrew Olson, a Mathematics and Physics graduate with a minor in Philosophy from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD (1998), participated in a summer internship at the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, Andrew participated in the Center™s Codes of Ethics Online project making an online archive of codes available to Internet users worldwide.

An article I found online written by Andrew, Authoring a Code of Ethics: Observations on Process and Organization, presents an analysis of the codes of ethics included in that particular project, as well as a guide to producing codes of ethics.
Here is an excerpt from that article that briefly describes a code of ethics:

Codes of ethics are to be reflections of the morally permissible standards of conduct which members of a group make binding upon themselves. These standards of conduct often reach beyond or delve deeper into societal morality in order to give guidance to people within a group on issues that are specific to the group. Often, codes of ethics prioritize commonly conflicting principles, which underlie the standards of conduct within an organization, either by explicitly weighting the principles or implicitly ordering the principles in order to give guidance on how one is to act as a morally responsible agent of the group when situations require an element of compromise between principles.

After reading that description, do you think that having a code of ethics for voice over professionals and voice actors is a good idea?
Do you have any ideas that you would like to suggest? If so, add them as a comment here on this article.
Looking forward to hearing from you,

Technorati Tags: Code of Ethics, Ethics, Voice Overs, Voice Actors, Voice Over, Andrew Olson, Illinois Institute of Technology, Pirate Code of the Brethren, Pirates of the Caribbean, Voiceovers, and


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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Hmm-
    Yes, I think so. I think a VO Code of Ethics is set out in AFTRA and SAG to a certain degree, but could also be translated to non-union talent.
    I would imagine it would touch on a general consensus of what a minimum job quote should be for all talent, agreeing that EVERY recording submitted for an audition should be watermarked, etc.
    In other words, I think a Code of Ethics for voiceover would be enacted just as much to protect a client as to protect the talent.
    Any other thoughts?

  2. I agree with Jesse!
    I think a code of ethics would help to maintain the integrity of our profession.
    A voice artist who obliges to follow a code of bidding and professional candor will not only be a gift for a client to work with, but will help to continue the elevation of our field. I’m all for it!
    If something like that was a required terms of service for the site, I wouldn’t have a problem with it (it would be a relief actually, knowing we were all following the same rules and not trying to cut each others’ proverbial throats).

  3. I believe it is a good idea in concept, but not certain how it could be done feasibly for the entire v/o industry. In my view, anyone doing business should conduct themselves professionally and ethically. There should be core values that everyone lives by. Fortunately, most professionals I’ve worked with do so. However, there will always be those who do not. But everyone has to face themselves in the mirror. How they decide to conduct themselves on any level is beyond the control of any code of ethics. I call it having a “moral compass”, (or lack thereof).

  4. I don’t have a “Code of Ethics” per se. I have a mission statement:
    To bring glory to God by conducting business with integrity, and striving to ensure that my clients and students get more our of our relationship than I do.

  5. I am only just looking into voice over acting as a possible new career so I know nothing of the current conditions those working in this specialized area usually encounter (excluding the famous actors who do occasional voice over projects whose fame presumably protects them from unsavory assignments or working conditions.) But I am a retired lawyer so I do know something about sexual harassment in the work place and other issues which raise serious concerns both moral and legal.
    However as a novice to voice over work, just two suggestions come to mind:
    1. There should be some standards developed for the sort of script or written work voice over actors are hired to read; categories of subject matter and standards of decency similar to film rating categories indicating audiences for whom the recorded work would be appropriate perhaps, and
    2. If possible, voice over actors should be supplied with the complete script or written work to be read, before signing a contract. After signing, if the script or written work is altered during production in such a way that the subject matter or its treatment becomes personally distasteful to the actor, so that being identified with the finished product may embarrass or humiliate them personally or professionally, or damage their career, professional image, or reputation, the voice over actor should have the right to demand release from the contract without financial penalties.
    I apologize in advance if my suggestions are laughably naive given existing industry practices.
    CJ Hare

  6. The main issue about ethics in our profession is no matter if the voice over is union or non union, is honest above all with himself, with others and with the customers. Our business in front or behind cameras is a total exposure of what we do and how we do it.

  7. We have talent sign an agreement that says they are independent contractors, etc. and they are not to share any proprietary info they narrated – things like that. And I agree with Bobbin that the person’s “moral compass” should rule. But some folks always need a little reminder and having something spelled out might be interesting. Good luck.
    Tim K at Creative Media Recording

  8. It would depend on the individual morals that pertain to the individual organization and their respective members. When you approach the highly sensitive (not to mention somewhat volatile) area of moral points of view, you could be in for more headaches than the ACLU. There are way too many cultural, spiritual and non denominational factions to consider that would deviate from the actual point of doing business with your client. If the client makes a point of discussing it, respect what he or she would have to say, and then I would think the focus should be on what is considered to be good business. Naturally, there needs to be good ethical sense about the way that we conduct business with one another, but in this day and age, I think that fear of the unknown causes us to scatter our priorities, and as a result, no one gets the benefit of good intentions nor good service. If you wish to structure a code of ethics, then fine. But one thing to keep in mind is that fairness is always an ingredient in all things ethical.


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