That Busy Tone…

Photo from Walt Stoneburner, some rights reserved.

Yesterday I wrote about “tone of voice”. Today I’ve learnt that whereas I thought “tone of voice” was the marketeer’s equivalent of what lawyers call “look and feel” it actually addresses the way in which a company ‘speaks’ to its clients. This, for the avoidance of doubt is “speaking” not in the sense of an overpaid voice over actor, but in the sense of the “corporate voice” and style of writing.

Now, I was surprised to discover that businesses hire people to come up with this for them (is this my dream job? Paid wordmonging without recourse to legal text?!) it also leads to questions around ownership of the work.

We can all sit here and be reasonably comfortable that the look and feel of a document or website is protected by copyright. But in order for copyright to apply to a company’s “tone of voice” the tone itself must be a “Work”.

It is well established that copyright will only apply to the expression of an idea – and as tone of voice seems to relate to the way in which an expression of an idea is uh expressed, can it be a Work in itself?

Are we looking to establish our rights in the expression of the expression of our ideas?

That doesn’t sound like it’s an assertion we can make, but if we can pay someone to create this mythical tone of voice, surely we can find a way to ensure ownership of it is transferred to us upon completion.

How? Well, watch this space…


I Don’t Like Your Tone, Young Man

Photo from aepoc, some rights reserved.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for our friends in marketing.  They do a lot of good work, and in some industries – fashion and tech spring to mind – they convince me to buy lots of pretty things that frankly I don’t need.  Which must benefit some shareholders somewhere.

However, they do speak a foreign language, and working on brand creation matters will often expose you to this.

Today I was asked about “tone of voice”.  This is something I tend to associate with oral communication, in particular, arguments with Ms HotShot where she says “I don’t like your tone of voice”.

Apparently to a ‘marketeer’ however, it means the logo, colour and typeface that a brand uses to convey its values and qualities.  This is something that some brands pay thousands to consultants to develop, but often don’t consider the ownership of.

Now we lawyers like to call this “look and feel” and we like to be able to turn round and tell people that we own the copyright in it, especially if they start trying to imitate it.  But if the marketing bods haven’t considered this from the outset, we often find that, actually, we don’t.  And this can be embarrassing.

So tone of voice / look and feel – whatever you call it, make sure you own it, before you rely on it.