• Germany's news in English
 

Germany's Jack Sparrow sues Disney in dubbing dust-up

Published: 09 Aug 2011 15:21 GMT+02:00

In what could be a watershed for Germany’s legion of dubbing artists, Marcus Off, 53, is demanding €180,000 for his voiceover performance – about 10 times what he was actually paid, the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported Tuesday.

Off has been in a dispute over the issue with the German arm of Disney since 2008. His case is now about to reach the Federal Court where he will argue in effect that he is the part creator of the hugely successful films and therefore is entitled to a share of the massive profits.

“Doing voiceover is acting, plain and simple, even if you only hear the voice,” Off told the paper.

Off’s voice has featured in hundreds of foreign films dubbed into German for cinema and television. He is the German voice of such stars as Ralph Fiennes, Sean Penn and British actor Michael Sheen.

The actor did the German voice for Johnny Depp’s memorable character Captain Jack Sparrow in the first three instalments of the "Pirates" franchise, which have been seen by an estimated 19.5 million people in German cinemas.

Indeed the films have been a phenomenal success worldwide, grossing more than €2.1 billion. The second installment, "Dead Man’s Chest," is the fifth highest-grossing film ever, according to the website Box Office Mojo.

Off claims that his contribution has been important to the films' success in Germany.

He was paid a total of €9,306.14 for his performances in all three, plus a further €8,650 for dubbing the DVD bonus material and TV ads. These sums are well above the standard rate for voiceovers.

Disney has refused his demands and has used another voiceover artist for the fourth film, "On Stranger Tides," prompting an internet petition by Off’s fans in Germany.

The case will soon go to the Federal Court, though Off has already lost a case before a Berlin court in June, for which he had to pay legal costs.

The outcome could be a precedent for the sizeable dubbing industry. Unlike many European countries, Germany foreign films and television are dubbed into German rather than running in their original language.

The IVS dubbing artists association, which has nearly 300 members, is supporting Off in his claim and is paying his legal costs, up to €20,000, according to Off.

Off is basing his complaint on a paragraph of the 2002 copyright law, called the “fairness paragraph,” which deals with adequate compensation. The paragraph enables an author to press for an additional claim from the publisher of a work if there is a “demonstrable discrepancy” between the agreed payment to the author and the eventual earnings from the work.

The federal court ruled in January that a publisher needed to ensure the translator of a non-fiction book was adequately compensated based on the sales of the work.

Off argues that he has not been adequately compensated given the massive success of the "Pirates" films. The question, then, is whether a voiceover artist can be considered on par with an author.

Disney does not believe so. In its original response to Off’s complaint, it argued that voiceover actors should be considered no differently than news or radio announcers, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“In some ways, voiceover speakers make even less of a creative contribution, because they simply imitate the voice and speech of an actor who has already given the text a dramaturgical value,” Disney argued.

However, Off was brought in for the first installment only after Disney had rejected the interpretation by another German Depp-dubber, David Nathan, suggesting the issue is not entirely straightforward.

The Local/djw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

17:41 August 9, 2011 by catjones
The german government has impounded the pirate ship and parrot.
17:54 August 9, 2011 by frankiep
The 'Pirates' films have been successful in Germany (and worldwide) because of the story, the scenery/costumes, and Johnny Depp. Change any of those things and the series is no where near as successful. Marcus Off (who?) may have done the German dubbing of the films, but take him away and replace him with anyone else and notice the lack of anyone caring. For him to say that he has been an important part of the films success is quite a stretch IMO.
18:13 August 9, 2011 by storymann
frankiep, I totally agree,he was lucky to have a part. Who cares who Marcus Off is,he is a crybaby who agreed to the work and the price but now that it is a bigger hit than he perceived, he thinks he should get a bigger piece of the pie..sure. and I am sure he wouldn't have accepted less if the movie was a flop.
18:24 August 9, 2011 by marimay
You're just a voice over, get over yourself.
19:16 August 9, 2011 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
Slow news day, huh?
19:40 August 9, 2011 by Gretl
We need a "like" button!

"Like" Catjones!
22:20 August 9, 2011 by LiberalGuy
It's usually the writers who get screwed over in films. Not the voice actors
02:13 August 10, 2011 by Bushdiver
The way I see it is if Off wasn't satisified with the amount offered to do the voice over then he could have declined the job. No one forced him to take the job. He took the offer, did the job, got paid and should now shut his mouth. He's not a star and the film would have done just as well with someone else doing the voice over.
07:09 August 10, 2011 by lordkorner
Sounds to me like the man is a bit "Off".I have nothing but contempt for dubbed movies and the fact that this guy does the voices of Sean Penn and Ralph Fiennes,two of the finest actors out there,but with two very different styles ,shows how pathetic this dubbing business is.
07:12 August 10, 2011 by Shirazz
One truth in life. No one is irreplaceable.

I'm a voice over-er. I'd do it for less than Marcus any day and would adhere to the contract. Do the best for the job, no fuss, no ego.
09:31 August 10, 2011 by blackisleboy
I´m afraid you are mistaken frankiep "take him away and replace him with anyone else and notice the lack of anyone caring.". German audiences did indeed notice that a different actor voiced Depp in the latest film and they didn´t think he was as good as the actor in the other films. Voice acting is especially important with characters like Jack Sparrow whose voice is so memorable and a poorer performance does affect your enjoyment of a film. I am not a native German speaker but even I noticed the different voice and after having seen the first three films with a different voice over artist, the latest part did not live up to those standards.

Whether or not Mr Off should get more money is a totally different matter - I just wanted to show how important voice over artists really are to the overall enjoyment of a film.
09:41 August 10, 2011 by wood artist
Hmmm. Whatever happened to the idea that you honor the contract you signed. If you didn't like the pay, negotiate something else or don't accept the work. While he may well have contributed to the success, he was paid what he agreed to take for the work. End of discussion. Unless the job description didn't accurately reflect the work expected, or changed during the production, I'd say he gets paid what he and the company agreed to in the contract.

wa
12:49 August 10, 2011 by Lazerman
I am a Voice Over Artist, so allow me to give you a different perspective. This issue is a big one, for there is ACTING involved in any voice over, a Performance is given, it is not just reading the script. HE is acting as JACK SPARROW for the German audience, so in my opion he is the star of the movie in Germany.

SO Saying that, I would say, figure what would be the fair payment for the actor for the success of the film in Germany, but defiently not the WORLD sales, for no one heard his voice outside of Germany.

We as Voice Artists are a small part of a large picture, but in many cases the Voice can become the part. Imagine anyone else doing the voice of Bart Simpson other than Nancy Cartright, or Eric Cartman being done by anyone else than Trey Parker.

It is a balancing act, and he should have negotiated a better deal when he was dubbing the second one after the first one did so well, so to be suing after the fact is just plain unprofessional.
14:19 August 10, 2011 by frankiep
I don't think that it is a good comparison to compare cartoon characters like Bart Simpson and Eric Cartman, to motion picture characters. In the first, the characters are much more well known and recognizable than the actors who give them their voices. Motion pictures however rely heavily on star power of the actors themselves. Perception plays a big role as well. People don't say to themselves "I can't wait for the next show/movie featuring the voice of Nancy Cartwright or Trey Parker" but they do say "I am really looking forward to seeing the next Johnny Depp movie".

In the case of dubbing, it is similar. I am willing to bet that very few people even knew the name of the guy who dubbed Johnny Depp's voice into German. It could have been a completely different person from the beginning (granted, switching people in the middle would be distracting in any circumstance) and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference to audiences as long as he wasn't absolutely horrible at it.

Try releasing a 'Pirates' movie in Germany (dubbed, of course) with Johnny Depp on the screen and someone other than Off doing the dubbing. People will still flock to see it. Try releasing a dubbed 'Pirates' movie in Germany with Off doing the dubbing but without Johnny Depp on the screen and count how many empty seats there are in the theaters.
15:03 August 10, 2011 by archilochus
To have a thorough review of voiceovers and dubbing with respect to voice quality and acting, a new book is recommended: J. Kreiman and D. Sidtis, Foundations of Voice Studies: An interdisciplinary approach to voice production and perception, Wiley-Blackwell. You'll find informative material in Chapter 10.
15:33 August 10, 2011 by catjones
Voiceover is just another form of plagiarism. It must be stopped.
18:23 August 10, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
"Prompting an internet petition by Off's fans in Germany..."

Yes, because voiceover actors have so many fans!

"Off claims that his contribution has been important to the film's success..."

Right, and Johnny Depp had nothing to do with it. Neither did the writers and directors of the scrrenplay. Get a clue, Off.
01:07 August 11, 2011 by wood artist
@lazerman

I think your points are well taken. Clearly the job is more than simply reading words on a page, attempting to make them more or less match the lip movements of the actor on screen. Voice work IS acting, just as actors in silent movies were acting...different, but the same.

However, he appeared in only the German release of the film (and maybe Austria I suppose) so world-wide profits can hardly be attributed to his work. And, as you observe, the time to have this "discussion" was probably after the first movie, when the success of the franchise was obvious. After-the-fact contract re-negotiation always seems a bit bizarre.

wa
16:24 August 12, 2011 by ydebond
Why Dub in the first place!

People go to movies to hear and see the REAL actors!!!
17:54 August 16, 2011 by heidelgirl
Can't say that Marcus Off is what lured me into reading this article...
Today's headlines
German kids 'growing up sitting down'
Photo: DPA

German kids 'growing up sitting down'

Too much sitting is bad for you, as we all know. But health experts warned on Monday that half of German children have firmly adopted the sedentary and damaging habits of their parents. READ  

Business makes confident start to 2015
A worker checks compensators in a Baden-Württemberg factory. Photo: DPA

Business makes confident start to 2015

German businesses are confident about the outlook for Europe's biggest economy, a new poll showed on Monday, as a weaker euro and falling oil prices are set to boost the country's exporters. READ  

'Stick to the plan': Germany to Greece
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras celebrates the party's election victory on Sunday. Photo: DPA

'Stick to the plan': Germany to Greece

UPDATE:German Chancellor Angela Merkel expects the new Greek government to uphold its commitments to international creditors, her spokesman said Monday after the electoral triumph of Greece's anti-austerity leftists Syriza. READ  

Give refugees holiday homes: Berlin official
Monika Herrmann attempts to mediate in a refugee dispute in 2014. Photo: DPA

Give refugees holiday homes: Berlin official

Amid rising tensions around the Pegida movement, a Berlin official stirred alarm on Monday with a proposal to commandeer private holiday apartments to house asylum seekers. READ  

Parties welcome Gabriel's Pegida meeting
Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel in Dresden on Friday. Photo: DPA

Parties welcome Gabriel's Pegida meeting

Politicians welcomed Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel's controversial decision to meet members of anti-Islam movement Pegida on Friday. READ  

Self-driving cars to hit German Autobahn
Hopefully there won't be any roadworks on the test stretch. Photo: DPA

Self-driving cars to hit German Autobahn

A section of the A9 Autobahn in Bavaria will be converted into a test route for self-driving cars, Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said on Monday. READ  

 Deutsche Bahn wins allies in air cartel suit
Deutsche Bahn's HQ in Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Photo: Volker Emersleben/DB

Deutsche Bahn wins allies in air cartel suit

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn said Sunday it has been joined by several companies in a 2.9 €billion euro lawsuit against Lufthansa and other airlines for fixing air cargo prices. READ  

Merkel phones Putin over Ukraine violence
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: DPA

Merkel phones Putin over Ukraine violence

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Sunday to "put pressure" on Ukraine's pro-Kremlin separatists to end a recent upsurge in violence. READ  

New anti-Islam march draws 17,000  people
The Pegida demonstration in Dresden on Sunday. Photo: Arno Burgi/dpa

New anti-Islam march draws 17,000 people

Thousands of people joined a march by the anti-Islamisation PEGIDA movement on Sunday, the group's first rally since threats surfaced against the group and its leader resigned over "Hitler" photos. READ  

Anti-Muslim rallies 'hurt Germany's image'
Police prepare for the demonstration on Sunday on Dresden's Theaterplatz. Photo: Arno Burgi/dpa

Anti-Muslim rallies 'hurt Germany's image'

Hours before a new rally in Dresden by the anti-Islamisation PEGIDA movement on Sunday, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the group's sentiments were harming the nation's image. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,428
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd