SAG-AFTRA Contract Raises Concerns Over AI Impact on Voice Acting


  • Voice actors fear AI could replace them due to new SAG-AFTRA contract.
  • Generative AI poses challenges, but legal battles may be on the horizon.
  • Dubbing industry at risk as AI may change voices for foreign languages.

Amidst the cheers and celebrations of SAG-AFTRA members over their hard-fought 118-day strike and historic contract win, concerns are brewing within the voice acting community. The focal point of unease is the potential implications of the contract’s provisions related to Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), the technology responsible for innovations like ChatGPT and deepfake songs featuring computer-generated voices of popular artists. While Generative AI has disrupted various artistic industries, such as music, visual arts, and literature, in recent years, voice actors fear that their profession is particularly vulnerable to the contract’s new language.

Voice actors at risk

Voice actors find themselves in a unique position within the entertainment industry, making them susceptible to exploitation by movie studios leveraging the contract’s language. The primary concern revolves around the prospect of studios opting to use AI-generated voices over human talent to cut costs significantly.

Jesse Inocalla, a voice actor, expressed his apprehensions, stating, “A lot of companies are looking to make the bottom line, and if they can spend $100 on licensing Male Voice No. 3 off of a text-to-speech platform, then they’re going to do that.”

Voice clones and the threat of generative AI

Voice actors’ concerns stem from both existing practices in the entertainment industry and specific clauses within the contract. AI-generated deepfakes have become increasingly common, raising questions about the ease with which artificial voice actors can be created. Some voice actors have already discovered cloned versions of their voices in various contexts, highlighting the growing challenge they face from Generative AI.

Montreal voice actor Tod Fennell emphasized the competition voice actors now face from AI, noting that the absence of a distinct face makes them more replaceable targets for studios. Fennell pointed out, “We’re trying to get really, really good so that the audience will hear the difference.”

Categories of AI impact in the contract

The SAG-AFTRA contract outlines three categories of Generative AI that could significantly affect voice actors: employment-based digital replicas, independently created digital replicas, and synthetic performers.

Employment-based digital replicas: These are digital likenesses created from actors already working on a project, effectively serving as computerized stunt doubles. This category allows studios to use AI to replicate an actor’s performance.

Independently created digital replicas: This category involves creating digital actors based on performers who were not originally hired for a project. For example, studios could use AI to continue the legacy of iconic voice actors long after their passing.

Synthetic performers: This category encompasses fully synthetic actors, not modeled after any specific individual.

Legal battles looming

Entertainment lawyers like Michael Duboff anticipate legal battles arising from the contract’s provisions. While the language in the contract acknowledges the importance of human performance in motion pictures and encourages parties to act in good faith, it remains to be seen how effectively these provisions can be enforced. Duboff noted, “Acknowledging something doesn’t really mean much at the end of the day if there isn’t a resulting action that comes from that.”

Loopholes and dubbing

Despite the requirement for actor consent before creating digital likenesses, loopholes exist. For instance, actors’ consent is not needed when using Generative AI to change “the voice of the performer to a foreign language.” This presents a potential threat to the dubbing industry, where voice actors play a crucial role in translating and dubbing content for multilingual audiences.

Renée Desjardins, an associate professor and translation researcher, highlighted the danger of studios relying on AI instead of human voice actors in the wake of growing multilingual content demand, citing examples like “Squid Game” and “Parasite.”

A future uncertain for voice actors

Voice actors remain concerned about their future as AI technology continues to advance. While the SAG-AFTRA contract addresses some aspects of Generative AI use, it does not cover animated TV productions and video games, which will be subject to separate agreements. Voice actors fear that as AI increasingly replaces human talent, future strikes may be less effective in securing their interests.

The SAG-AFTRA contract has brought historic changes to the entertainment industry, but it has also raised significant concerns among voice actors regarding the potential impact of Generative AI on their profession. As the industry grapples with the growing influence of AI, the voice acting community awaits further developments and safeguards to protect their livelihoods and artistic contributions in an evolving landscape.

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 decisions.

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John Palmer

John Palmer is an enthusiastic crypto writer with an interest in Bitcoin, Blockchain, and technical analysis. With a focus on daily market analysis, his research helps traders and investors alike. His particular interest in digital wallets and blockchain aids his audience.

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