Our readers may (or may not) know that many English-speaking blockbusters will be dubbed into other languages when shown in some non-English speaking countries. Die Sueddeutsche Zeitung now reports on a claim for additional compensation brought by German "dubbing actor" Marcus Orff, who lent his voice to Johnny Depp for the German language version of Pirates of the Caribbean.

The Berliner Kammergericht (case reference 24 U 2/10 of 29 June 2011) had to decide on Mr Orff’s claim for additional compensation based on §32a of the German Copyright Act (UrhG) which provides for a so-called “fairness compensation” in cases where there is a disproportion between the fee paid and the success of the work or creation. Bearing in mind the success of this particular movie franchise at the German box office, its related DVD releases and the TV licensing of the films Mr Orff took the view that his fee of roughly 18,000 Euros was not a fair consideration for his contribution: as the German voice of the lead actor he had made a decisive contribution and should be paid a supplemental fee of 180,000 Euros.

The Berlin court found that, while there could theoretically be cases where a fee received was disproportionate to the success of a film and where an artist could thus demand such a supplemental fee, this was not the case here. The court stressed that a dubbing artist, who lends his voice to a lead actor, has no claim for a supplemental fee as “fairness compensation” where the dubbing actor's actual contribution is of merely ancillary importance to the film. According to the court, this will apply where the film consists mostly of technical effects, has numerous supporting actors and where the lead actor appears only infrequently. Looking at the German version of the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Berlin court found that it mostly consisted of technical effects and had numerous extras and supporting actors with the actual contribution of the main actor -- and thus his German voice -- being comparatively small. Overall, the court held that Mr. Orff’s contribution to the films was not insubstantial but certainly covered by the fee already paid by the film production company.

Mr Orff (who is also the German voice of Ralph Fiennes, Sean Penn and Michael Sheen) has already announced that he will appeal against this decision, this in particular since he was already the second dubbing actor hired to dub Mr Depp after the initial dubbing actor’s efforts had been regarded as insufficient. Mr Orff feels that he has given the character his own personality.

This Kat can't help but adding that the court's assessment of the content of the film as consisting of mostly special effects (and rather little acting) might surprise some of the viewers. Meanwhile, Merpel read with interest that Mr Depp again has been given a new German voice for the 4th instalment of “Fluch der Karibik” which by the way translates into “Curse of the Caribbean”.

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