Voice Actors Outraged Over Sag-Aftra’s AI Deal for Game Voices

Voice Actors Outraged Over Sag-Aftra's AI Deal for Game Voices

Key voice actors claim they weren’t told of a landmark deal setting out how voices generated by artificial intelligence (AI) can be used in games.

SAG-Aftra, the trade union representing thousands of performers, has sparked outrage after agreeing a deal with a company that clones people’s voices for use in video games.

The labor union says it guarantees “fully informed consent and fair compensation” for its members. However, many voice artists, who have long been concerned AI will replace them, have reacted with fury, with one calling the deal garbage.

Replica Studios is at the heart of the controversial deal, and they offer voice developers access to their AI voice library, which has more than 120 voices. SAG-Aftra assured their members that the agreement was designed to protect them, but some performers disagreed.

Prominent performers disagree with SAG-Aftra’s AI deal

SAG-Aftra claimed the affected members of the union’s voice-over performer community approved the agreement. This was contained in an email to members, where they stated that the deal was negotiated by a committee that included actors with diverse experiences in performing in games.

According to the email, the contract was specifically tailored to the needs of voice actors, ensuring informed consent and proper compensation terms unique to this set of performers. However, it seems many video game voice actors didn’t have a choice in the decision, as many of them disagreed.

A prominent performer, Steve Blum, clearly stated his disagreement and that he didn’t know anyone who approved it. Steve Blume was the most prolific video game actor in 2012, as credited by Guinness.

Also, another prominent performer, Khoi Dao, voiced his disapproval. Veronica Taylor also asked why Studios was interested in using an AI replica rather than hiring the actual actor; she also asked how the deal was made without being put to a vote. In addition, other actors also voiced their disagreement.

However, SAF-Aftra responded in a statement that this deal sets the foundation for the ethical usage of AI in the future and that the deal will only be with Replica Studios.

Additionally, several voice actors have suggested that this deal is not in line with the purpose of the SAG-Aftra-led strike action in 2023. The strike action was to fight for protection from film and television studios using AI.

The trade union’s chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, said that the recent developments in AI technology have underscored the importance of safeguarding the rights of voice talent. This is very vital at this time as game studios explore more efficient ways to create with their games.

Contract terms

According to Sag-Aftra, the agreement spells out the terms and conditions for AI-generated voices in video games. Replica Studios can license this for gaming and other forms of media.

Significantly, the AI firm must get the actor’s consent before using voices based on their likeness. It also gives voice actors the right to deny their voice being used perpetually without consent.

Moreover, the agreement was met with disagreement from the performers themselves. Voice actors outside of gaming have also criticized the agreement. Joshua Seth, known for voicing Tai in the animated series Digimon, called it a “big mistake.” Audiobook narrator Paige Reisenfeld said she was “ashamed” that her union payments went towards it.

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