What happens when you use auditions as spots on demos?

Who does the custom voice sample of work you’ve auditioned for but not booked belong to?
In this article, we’re going to discuss the consequences of what might happen if you use an audition spot on your demo and publicize it online.

Using Auditions As Demos?

From time to time, we come across demos on talent profiles that suggest those files are not actual work samples or demo samples but custom reads from auditions that were recorded for clients posting jobs online.
Is this a problem?
As a best practice, audition material should never be used on a demo unless the client has consented to its use in that capacity.

Thoughts From eLegal

A couple of years ago, I interviewed a lawyer, David Canton, and asked him number of questions about just who audition audio belongs to.
Below, you’ll see a portion of that interview.

Please note that laws vary by country, and even by state/province within countries. Legal answers always depend on the specific facts at hand, and small changes in fact can lead to different results. So David Canton’s answers here are for general guidance and information only, and are not to be considered or relied upon as legal advice.

Another thing to consider is that rights owners vary greatly in their inclination and desire to enforce their IP (intellectual property) rights. Some may not care, or may let violations slide on the basis that it is good publicity. Others may be overly aggressive and try to stop things that one is legally able to do.

Excerpt From an Interview with David Canton

VOX: Voice actors do auditions every day at and through other services. Usually a script is provided by the client that a voice actor can partially record for demonstration purposes. This allows the client to review the samples and get a better idea of how that person would sound representing their company.

Should that ad copy or script be considered “off limits” to voice actors if they don’t get the job? In other words, is it OK for a voice actor to use the audition spot they recorded as a sample of what they could do and post it publicly on the web or include it in demo materials that they send out to prospective clients or agencies?

DAVID CANTON: If the script is provided by the client, the best approach is to ask permission to use it as a sample and get that permission in writing. Indeed, that should be standard practice for the voice actor. In addition to removing all doubt, it shows a very professional approach that the client may like to see. It’s the same issue as Question 1 (Stephanie’s add – using a company’s name or slogan in a demo without having worked for them / asked permission). One factor here is that if the sample script is close to the final ad, the client may not want versions other than by its final voice choice to be floating around.

VOX: There have been a couple of instances where we have received complaints from clients who noticed that auditions submitted featuring their scripts had been used as promotional materials by talent who were not hired for the job. Those voice samples were removed from the profiles of the talent in question and the client was pleased with those actions.

This may seem obvious, but would you advise that talent simply archive their auditions and not use the audio for other purposes, particularly promotional purposes that may endanger or misrepresent the company’s brand?

DAVID CANTON: Yes, that’s a wise approach. Again – the best approach is to always ask if one can use the audition for samples.
To read the interview in context, click here:

Interview with David Canton
David’s answers to these particular questions make it clear from a legal standpoint, intellectual property and copyright perspective that obtaining permission, particularly written permission, should occur before using ad copy or a brand name.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this. What do you think?
Best wishes,

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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. Hi Bob,
    Thanks for chiming in! I’d say you’re safe on that one. Shakespeare is in the public domain as you well know 🙂
    Best wishes,

  2. I think it’s wise to refrain from using on demos without permission audition scripts for voice over jobs not awarded. Even if permission is granted, perhaps it’s not the best idea to use that clip unless you know you were a finalist in the audition. If it’s not your “money read” or variation thereof, why use it?
    However, it can be helpful to use audition scripts as templates for building demo scripts. Producers and directors don’t care about hearing the product name in every piece, it’s the ability to convey the ideas and emotions that is important. They will want to hear one or two clips in the demo that show that you have done real work and that you know how to handle a brand name, but it’s not vital for most of the clips on the demo to sound like they’re fresh off the writer’s pen. It’s about showing your voice talents, not the talents of the copy writers. A voice talent should be able to make even bad copy sound good. That’s why they pay us.

  3. I found this VERY useful. I have done this before, unaware, when I was new to the site.
    I find that I am writing my own copy now for my demos.
    Thanks for the article, very, very helpful!
    Lauren Holladay

  4. Hi Stephanie:
    Intellectual property is a “mine field” for v/o talents, as most of us don’t understand the ramifications of, essentially, using someone else’s material without permission. Most Business insurance contracts (we should all maintain biz insurance as a sound business practice) do not cover Copyright Infringement; you’re on your own. You’ll either be issued a Cease & Desist order from a court, or, you’ll be told to appear and “bring your checkbook”. Not a good proposition, either way.

  5. Am I ever pleased that I received and read this. I am very new to the industry and was not aware of this. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Helen Peacock

  6. I think it’s one thing if in your demo you use the actual product name
    in a spot you didn’t get, and it’s entirely different it’s from a game
    or animation. I mean does anybody really have the copyright on “Get
    them!” or, “I’ll kill you for that!” or even, “I swear, I’m innocent!”?
    Sent from my accordion!

  7. I don’t do custom auditions; I get nothing for my time, effort and use of resources when I audition. All of my VO work comes from people listening to my existing body of work.
    IMO, should provide language that automatically enables VOs who submit auditions to be able to use their reads on their demos as a quid pro quo for auditioning.

  8. Another reason to stay away from audition pieces in your professional demo: if the casting director hears his/her project in your demo, they KNOW they didn’t cast you. They may not appreciate it if you pass yourself off as someone who worked on the project. Best to keep demo scripts neutral. Use scripts as a jumping off point but find a way to make them your own.

  9. I think most of us in the “business” try to do the right thing when it comes to IP and copyright. It is, at best, a difficult area in which to try to work.
    I would add that I know of a training program I listened to on a few months ago on audiobooks where this issue of copyright was discussed, and the general statement in that program was to use no more than 30 seconds of anything and you should be safe!
    Yes, many will say Oh NO, especially the legal side, but as Steve H said above, those of us doing VO demos for nothing should be given quid pro quo access to the material for our efforts, sans branding I would add!
    Ever wonder why recommends that you watermark your work? Seems like a reverse copyright issue, hey!

  10. Hi Dan and Steve,
    I hear what you are saying about wanting to have something in return for your custom demo and believe that a form of this already exists. The audition is of value to you and the custom sample is of value to the client. Not everyone cuts custom demos but those who do often stand a better chance of booking. In that way, a custom demo can also serve as a competitive advantage.
    Dan, I think what you are referring to was what a guest on a webinar had said about audiobook narration. I don’t hold those same views, and from a legal standpoint, there could be issues if the author / publisher pursues you should the text be under copyright.
    For those of you interested in creating demos for audiobooks, you can use material from the public domain. The classics are a good place to start if you’re looking for known material with stories you can narrate.
    All of this being said, copyright still matters. If you audition for something and cut a custom demo, the copy still belongs to the copyright holder, not the voice talent. The custom demo in this case is a demonstration of what you can do for that particular client for their particular project.
    Permission would still be necessary from the person who holds the copyright. The copyright holder could be the person posting the job or it could belong to someone else, for instance, their client.
    Dan, I’m not sure what you mean by reverse copyright in terms of watermarking. If you’d like, comment back and share more so that I can respond.
    I hope that helps. Thanks for participating and for keeping the conversation lively!
    Best wishes,

  11. Do NOT use audition copy on your voice-over demo. Producers and agents would rather hear something fresh with a unique voice and/or delivery. And do Not use newly recorded commercial copy unless YOU actually voiced the spot. Be new. Be you. Be different. Brent Brace Voice Actor/Los Angeles

  12. Stephanie,
    This is very helpful information as I am new to the business. I still have a question, however. Is it possible to use ad copy from newspapers and magazines as they are in the public domain or is it better to write around or drop the brand names or rewrite the entire copy?
    Thank you.

  13. Hi Jim,
    Thank you for your comment and question! I hope my reply finds you well.
    Copy found in newspapers, even if it is available to the public, is only considered to be in the Public Domain if its copyright has expired. Works enter the Public Domain typically decades after the death of the creator of the work so anything you’re seeing now is likely not a candidate for Public Domain status.
    From what I know, it is best for you to rework the copy and drop the brand name.
    Take care,

  14. Good thing I came across this article because I am new to the business.
    For clarification, can you list what types of VO scripts that I should use for my demos vs. VO scripts that I should not use?


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