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HomeAFRICAVoice actors warn Comic-Con attendees about a pervasive AI menace

Voice actors warn Comic-Con attendees about a pervasive AI menace

Tim Friedlander, the founder of the National Association of Voice Actors, speaks on July 21, 2023, at Comic-Con in San Diego.

At this week’s Comic-Con event, voice actors behind some of the world’s most renowned animations and video games warned that artificial intelligence has opened Pandora’s box.

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The biggest pop culture convention in North America is going on while there is a significant Hollywood strike, which is partly due to actors’ and writers’ worries about how artificial intelligence is affecting the arts.

Voice actors are at the forefront of the debate, as readily available technology enables users to clone someone’s voice and have it read new dialogue—frequently without their permission or payment.

The founder of the National Association of Voice Actors, Tim Friedlander, gave a recent example of a voice actor who had been working for a company for three years before being abruptly let go.

Friedlander told the press prior to Saturday’s panel, “They said, ‘We have three years of your voice; we’re just going to create an AI synthetic voice out of what we already have.

Cissy Jones (R), who works on the animated television series ‘The Owl House,’ speaks at Comic-Con 2023 on July 21, 2023, in San Diego.

The threat is not limited to corporations. In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in the number of fans using AI “deep fake mods” to clone renowned voices and have them read new, often pornographic material.

“I am a parent. “There are certain things I don’t want my voice to say and have my children question whether or not I actually said them,” said Cissy Jones of the animated television series “The Owl House.”

Zeke Alton, whose voice recently appeared in the video game “The Calisto Protocol,” stated that voice actors were not attempting to ban artificial intelligence completely.

“Let’s be clear: Pandora’s box is wide open,” he stated.

If you are going to copy me or any other performer, we should agree to it and be compensated for the use of what makes us money.

‘Digital facsimile’

Artificial intelligence is a major stumbling block in stalled negotiations between Hollywood studios and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), which joined the writers’ strike this month.

Actors have accused studios of ignoring concerns that would leave them “vulnerable to having most of their work replaced by digital replicas.”

Zeke Alton (L) and SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland (R), attend a Comic-Con press conference.

The studios announced on Friday that they had offered to establish informed consent and equitable compensation when a “digital replica” of a performer or their voice is created, but that the union had not responded.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, told Comic-Con journalists that studios wish to “bury” AI consent clauses “in some sentence in the middle of a 12-page contract.”

He cautioned that voice actors are “at the forefront” of the AI debate, as “more rapid change is occurring in voice acting than in any other field.”

For instance, studios are investigating the use of artificial intelligence to dub dialogue into foreign languages, which would deprive voice actors in local markets of valuable work.

Another issue is that studios may use “synthesized” voices that combine multiple human accents without compensating the original actors.

“Not secured”

Despite the uproar, not all voice-over work is presently impacted by the strike, as some of it is negotiated under separate union contracts.

The practice of “looping” or ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement)—voicing animated characters, narrating trailers, and adding dialogue for background actors in film and television sequences—is prohibited.

Voiceover work for video games, however, falls under a distinct union contract for “interactive” media, for which negotiations are ongoing; therefore, it can continue to be performed during the strike.

Nonetheless, Alton warned, “What transpires during this strike will affect not only the acting profession but all professions.”

“Actors are actors. If we are not protected at the conclusion of this strike under this contract, then we are not protected under any contract.”

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