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Voice Actors Speak Out Against AI At Comic-Con Panel

“We’ve got to reject the idea that this is just something that’s going to happen to us and we can’t say anything about it.” SAG-AFTRA’s Duncan Crabtree-Ireland

National executive director of SAG-AFTRA Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. Image source: SAG-AFTRA

Generative AI continues to make creatives uneasy about the future. There is also a growing concern among voice actors about using AI voice clones without actor consent. Various Skyrim mods, many of which are NSFW, use AI voice clones of actual voice actors, making it sound like the actors are saying things they’ve never said.

Voice actors spoke out about the issue at a panel at Comic-Con San Diego. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director of SAG-AFTRA (pictured), voiced his concerns about the hazards of AI for voice actors during the panel, as reported by Variety magazine.

“We’ve got to reject the idea that this is just something that’s going to happen to us and we can’t say anything about it,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “I think it definitely could; the question is whether we’re going to let that happen.”

Joining Crabtree-Ireland was moderator and National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) board member Linsay Rousseau, who voiced characters in God of War Ragnarök and Fallout 76. Ashly Burch, Cissy Jones, NAVA president and founder Tim Friedlander, and SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee member Zeke Alton made up the rest of the panel. The panel discussed the threat that AI could replace most voice actors if regulations and protections aren’t placed on AI use. Furthermore, is the fact that AI can now manipulate or clone voice actors’ voices.

Crabtree compared the danger of AI voice cloning to the plot of The Little Mermaid, stating, “I remember seeing that for the first time and thinking, how horrifying is it that this sea witch steals the voice of this person and then uses it for whatever. That is exactly what we’re talking about.”

NAVA’s framework for ethical AI voice use

Over the last year-and-a-half, NAVA has been developing a framework for ethical AI use. The framework states that actors must give informed consent in order for their voices to be used by AI. However, according to Jones, this does not include the passive permission of wordy contracts. Voice-over contracts often include a statement about owning the voice actor’s work ‘in perpetuity’ and for use ‘in any technology currently existing or to be developed’. Friedlander stated this could mean a new voice actor’s first job could be their last if AI protections aren’t implemented.

“As a human voice actor, I can walk into a room and get a script that says something that I didn’t either agree to say or something that I would never say; I personally have that ability to walk out of that room,” Friedlander says. “With AI cloning the voices of actors, however, “We’ve lost control over what our voice could possibly say.”

Furthermore, NAVA’s framework states that actors must be fairly compensated and have control over how their voices are used. Currently, Jones is working to build the “first actor-first, ethical use of AI with voice-over” company.

Written By

Jack Brassell is a freelance journalist and aspiring novelist. Jack is a self-proclaimed nerd with a lifelong passion for storytelling. As an author, Jack writes mostly horror and young adult fantasy. Also an avid gamer, she works as the lead news editor at Hardcore Droid. When she isn't writing or playing games, she can often be found binge-watching Parks & Rec or The Office, proudly considering herself to be a cross between Leslie Knope and Pam Beasley.

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