Synthetic/AI Voices

Vocal Variants are the NAVA Synthetic & AI Advisors.

Hello, friends and fellow actors,

AN OPEN LETTER FROM VOCAL VARIANTS TO THE VOICE OVER COMMUNITY

AI or Synthetic Voices are on the rise. We’re a group of concerned voice actors working with union and non-union performers alike to make sure we don’t lose our voices forever by signing away our rights to various companies. Long story short, any contract that allows a producer to use your voice forever in all known media (and any new media developed in the future) across the universe is one we want to avoid. 

So we have put together some things we can all do to avoid the decimation of our industry: 

Read Your ContractsAll of them. 

We are finding many “riders” in our contracts (Riders are terms tacked on to a boilerplate contract) stipulating that clients’ have the right to “simulate” our voices after our sessions without additional compensation, forever. Never grant these rights to any client!  We’ve also seen riders trying to get us to sign for “Attorney-in-fact” rights to sign new contracts on our behalf, and “new exploitation rights” that they can proactively accept for us, so keep your eyes open!!

UNION Actors: 

If you come across language like this or ANY verbiage that alludes to “simulation” “synthesization” or “digital double”– or, frankly, if you see any rider attached to your contract that contains suspicious language — send a copy to both Treslyn Williams & Sue-Anne Morrow at SAG-AFTRA (treslyn.williams@sagaftra.orgSue-Anne.Morrow@sagaftra.org). The union is striking this language from contracts retroactively, but they can’t do it if they don’t know about it, so let’s make them aware. 

NONUNION Actors:

If you come across language like this or ANY verbiage that alludes to “simulation” “synthesization” or “digital double”— or, frankly, if you see any rider attached to your contract that contains suspicious language  — either work with your agent to get this language struck, or your attorney if you have one. If you are negotiating for yourself, talk with the client about not wanting this language included in your contract. Many times they may not realize it’s even in there as their attorneys are trying to include “just in case”.

These riders are coming from companies both massive and tiny. We must keep this language from becoming standard boilerplate, and we need your help to do it. Please send any suspicious contract riders to the emails above, or to your appropriate representation.  If you feel so inclined, please also submit it to our database so we can keep an eye on what new language is being used.

If you do choose to grant rights for a Synthetic version of your voice (let’s call it a Character), make sure any contract you sign stipulates the following:

  * Usage – how and where will your character be used? The contract must define specifically which medium your character will be used in (ie, Text-To-Speech(TTS), Interactive Voice Recording (IVR), Speech-to-Speech(STS), commercial are a few popular uses), and pay accordingly. For example, if your character is meant to be used in a narration and then it shows up in a commercial, you should absolutely know how you’ll be paid for the new usage.

  *Term & Exclusivity – how long will your character be in use? “In perpetuity throughout the known universe” robs you of any potential future earnings. Make sure you stipulate a specific start and end date for the usage so you and your agent can renegotiate at the end of the term. Also understand if the contract makes you exclusive to a specific company, preventing you from working for anyone else in that market.  

  * Storage – how will your character be stored? Is anyone able to access it and create their own new version of a digital you? Will you be able to have any say in how your voice is used? Deep fakes are on the rise. It’s important to protect your character from being used in ways the Real You might object to.

  * Rate – knowing that your character can be utilized within the terms/usage defined, are you being paid enough? The Union minimums for various mediums can be found here. It’s a good starting point and benchmark for rates if you are not in the union.

LEARN MORE: There have been some interesting articles and use cases coming out lately. If you’re interested in reading what’s going on and how our union (and the UK’s Equity union) is responding, check out these articles

If you have any questions or information you’d like to share, you can reach us via email or visit our website.  You can also sign our letter of support to be added to the growing list of actors who want to participate in this effort.

Lastly, 

THIS IS NOT A UNION VERSUS NON-UNION ISSUE.

This affects ALL OF US and we want to look out for one another. If you have any questions, please reach out and we’ll help you as best we can! 

- The Vocal Variants Team

(Zeke Alton, Andy Danish, Sarah Elmaleh, David Errigo Jr, Carin Gilfry, Keythe Farley, Tim Friedlander, Cissy Jones, JP Karliak, Yuri Lowenthal, Brock Powell, Stephanie Sheh, Courtenay Taylor, Matt Waterson)

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