N-D-who? Non Disclosure Agreements were in the news a year ago with the stories about the fall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
NDA’s are common in VO. You may be asked to sign one before starting in on a project. The NDA can prohibit ANY conversation, emails or writings, photos, and other disclosures about a project. The NDA may apply only to social media—no posts, no selfies, no way, no how, and forever.
Clients don’t want scripts or buzz about a project getting spread around by any but their own public relations people. That way, they can control the message, control the spin, and have a chance to get the most out of the project. There’s a lot of monetary value in information about a project, product, or event. Just because you’re involved doesn’t mean you get to chat about it on social media or even among your VO friends and family.
Plus, you have your little view of the whole project. You likely don’t see all the other moving parts and people who are working to make the thing happen. What if your talking about the project sinks the whole thing—for everybody!?
Sometimes, too, NDA’s are listed in the rules for a job you accept. You may not even sign anything, but you still may be bound. A client may impose a ban on social media posts and photos of an event, the behind-the-scenes action that you capture with your cell phone camera. So it’s important to pay attention—or get caught up to date before you get caught up in a problem.
What about my freedom of speech? The First Amendment applies to the government’s restriction of your speech, but not to private businesses and contracts. An NDA is a contract and part of the gig—want the gig? Sign the NDA. Don’t want the NDA? Don’t do the gig.
So what happens if you violate an NDA? You could get sued, and that would be expensive. Usually clients have deeper pockets than an individual voice talent. But worse, you could lose your client—or your agent—for future work, which would be expensive, too.
Remember the old World War II warning: LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS! That had to do with talking about shipping details that could be overheard by enemy spies.
So talk to your mic to record the project’s copy, but if there’s an NDA talk no further. Just remember, NDA could also stand for NO DISCUSSING AT-ALL!