SAG-AFTRA Deal Carves the Route for AI Voice Actors in Video Games

AI voice actors

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  • SAG-AFTRA, the Hollywood union, has inked a deal with AI firm Replica Studios, allowing regulated use of generative AI in video games.
  • The agreement permits Replica to create digital doubles of union members’ voices, ensuring informed consent and fair compensation for voice talent.
  • SAG-AFTRA’s deal only covers Replica Studios, leaving concerns about larger language models and their impact on fair compensation in the creative industry.

In a move that could reshape the landscape of voice acting in video games, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has forged a deal with generative AI firm Replica Studios. The Hollywood union, representing a diverse array of performers, including voice and motion-capture artists, has ventured into the realm of artificial intelligence to regulate its integration into the gaming world. This move aims to balance the innovative use of AI while ensuring the protection of union members’ voices and performances.

SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios – A pioneering partnership

Under the agreement between SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios, the union has laid down specific rules governing the utilization of generative AI in video games. The deal grants Replica the ability to create digital replicas of actors’ voices, contingent on the actors’ explicit consent. This marks a significant shift in the industry, allowing voice talent to negotiate the use of their AI voice doubles and retain control over the ongoing utilization of their voices in future games or interactive media projects.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher highlighted the importance of the agreement in protecting performers, stating, “For most performers, the best protection against the unauthorized digital simulation of their voice, likeness, and/or performance is a SAG-AFTRA contract.” The sentiment was echoed by SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who emphasized the achievement of fully informed consent and fair compensation for members’ voices and performances.

This move follows a recent agreement between SAG-AFTRA and the producers’ guild for film and television actors, where concerns about AI’s potential threat to actors’ livelihoods were raised. Despite the AMPTP deal including provisions for AI, some members expressed reservations, paving the way for the union’s exploration of AI’s impact since 2018.

Challenges beyond Replica Studios – The LLM conundrum

While SAG-AFTRA’s deal with Replica Studios is a significant step, it only addresses one facet of the larger AI landscape in the entertainment industry. Notably, the agreement excludes provisions for large language models (LLMs), such as those embraced by gaming giants like Ubisoft and Tencent-owned Riot Games through NVIDIA’s ACE technology. The sourcing of outputs from LLMs remains a contentious issue, with concerns over fair compensation extending beyond the realm of video games to encompass films, television, and even lawsuits, like the New York Times’ case against OpenAI.

As SAG-AFTRA’s interactive media division previously greenlit a strike in September, discussions are ongoing to secure a new deal, particularly addressing concerns of game industry workers threatened by generative AI. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland expressed hope that the Replica Studios agreement would inspire video game companies to collaborate on reaching an agreement, fostering a positive direction for negotiations.

Navigating the future with AI voice actors

the collaboration between SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios signifies a pivotal moment in navigating the intersection of artificial intelligence and the entertainment industry. The agreement charts a course toward informed consent and fair compensation for voice actors, acknowledging the evolving landscape of video games. However, the exclusion of large language models raises broader questions about the industry’s readiness to address the challenges posed by AI. As negotiations continue, inspired by this groundbreaking deal, one must contemplate the future implications: Will this partnership set a precedent for comprehensive agreements, and how will the creative landscape adapt to the ever-expanding influence of technological innovation?

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Aamir Sheikh

Amir is a media, marketing and content professional working in the digital industry. A veteran in content production Amir is now an enthusiastic cryptocurrency proponent, analyst and writer.

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