Voice actors pressured to sign their voices rights over to AI

Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi
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The voice acting community speaks out as the first wave of AI automation looks set to transform the film industry. 

2023 is said to be the year that artificial intelligence will break out into the mainstream, and that’s certainly true of the film industry which is bracing itself for an onslaught of change. Whilst we’re expecting to see an AI revolution in many aspects of the film industry over the next five years, some sectors are already struggling to deal with the impact that AI generative processes are inflicting on their profession. Whilst VFX artists and concept artists are expected to find much of their work taken on by machine processes over the next couple of years, voice actors are already facing the same troubling reality.

Ever since it was announced a few months ago that all of Darth Vader’s voice work in The Book Of Boba Fett and Kenobi was completed via AI processes (rather than James Earl Jones, the long-standing voice of the Dark Lord of the Sith), the potential for widespread use of artificially-generated voice acting became clear.

As with any industry facing an AI revolution, there are concerns about the impact this will have on human jobs and the voice acting sector is no different. Vice is reporting that ‘voice actors are increasingly being asked to sign rights to their voices away so clients can use artificial intelligence to generate synthetic versions that could eventually replace them.’ Worse, voice actors are sometimes being asked to do this ‘without additional compensation.’

Like concept artists, voice actors are also concerned that many of the platforms that offer voice-generating services are very cheap, far cheaper than employing a voice actor. Also like AI services that create generative art, these platforms make no distinction regarding intellectual property. Any voice can be uploaded for synthesising, meaning that an actor’s voice could essentially be ‘stolen’ and used without their consent.

Many areas of the film industry are facing an uncertain future in the face of AI’s growing presence. We imagine that unions and guilds are monitoring things very carefully but there are clearly going to be casualties as the industry adapts. Voice actors, it seems are among the first.

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