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Epic disruption: AI robs actors of their voice

In this post:

  • AI is increasingly used to clone voices of voice actors, sometimes without their knowledge or consent.
  • Legal loopholes and outdated contracts allow companies to exploit voice actors’ work.
  • The rise in AI-generated content threatens the livelihoods of voice actors.

In an era of unprecedented technological advancements, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a game-changer in numerous fields. However, not all are reveling in its benefits.

Actors, particularly voice artists, are feeling the heat as AI is increasingly infringing upon their turf, even robbing them of their unique vocal signature.

Greg Marston, a seasoned British voice actor, fell prey to this disturbing trend. One day, he discovered his voice being used without his knowledge or consent, on a platform called Revoicer.

This website uses AI to convert text into speech in numerous languages and styles, effectively ‘cloning’ the voices of real individuals.

The twilight zone of legalese and AI exploitation

In a bewildering revelation, it turned out that Marston had, unknowingly, sold his voice rights for eternity to IBM when he recorded for a satnav system in 2005.

At that time, the concept of generative AI was practically non-existent. Nevertheless, IBM was within its legal rights to sell his voice to third parties for any purpose, including commercial, given the fine print in an antiquated contract.

This unsettling reality isn’t confined to Marston alone. Thousands of voiceover artists are facing the same dilemma. Advances in AI have enabled it to rapidly produce humanlike text, images, and content. This has spawned new business models centered around AI voice and image cloning.

Unfortunately, this evolution threatens to erode the livelihoods of artists who depend on their voices and faces for work, as these are being unlawfully used through potentially exploitative contracts and data-scraping techniques.

The epidemic of unlawful AI cloning

Cases of voiceover artists discovering their voices in AI-generated advertisements and fraudulent phone scams are on the rise. Equity, the UK’s trade union for the performing arts industry, has received numerous complaints about such exploitations and scams.

Voice actors have now found themselves competing against their own AI clones. As a result, this looming existential crisis has begun to threaten not just their jobs, but also the essence of their artistry.

Performers like Laurence Bouvard, a London-based voice actor, have been targeted for voice data scraping via deceptive tactics. Fake casting calls and shady contracts that surreptitiously slip in AI synthesis clauses are some of the many ploys used by AI companies.

The AI industry is capitalizing on the artists’ vulnerability, offering meager compensation in exchange for permanent rights to their unique voices. This rampant commercialization of artistry has sparked a mass exodus of finances from the creative sector to the tech industry.

AI rights – A legal minefield

Unfortunately, current laws offer scant protection to these performers. Data privacy laws are the sole legal framework addressing AI, and they fall drastically short in addressing the specific challenges faced by artists.

In the United Kingdom, the government has indicated a preference for lenient intellectual property regulation to foster AI innovation. Consequently, performers are left in a precarious position.

If they refuse to sign contracts due to unfavorable AI clauses, they risk losing work. It’s a no-win situation, leaving artists in a vulnerable bargaining position.

Equity, the voice for these artists, is advocating for new rights to be enshrined in law, specifically focusing on time-bound contracts and explicit consent for voice or body cloning by AI.

Disclaimer: The information provided is not trading advice. Cryptopolitan.com holds no liability for any investments made based on the information provided on this page. We strongly recommend independent research and/or consultation with a qualified professional before making any investment decision.

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Ryan Salame
Cryptopolitan
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