Zeke Alton, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, and Tim Friedlander speak at the National Association of Voice Actors AI In Entertainment: The Performer's Perspective at 2023 Comic-Con International: San Diego at the San Diego Convention Center on July 22, 2023 in San Diego, California.

Voice Actors Expose AI at Comic-Con Panel with SAG-AFTRA’s Duncan Crabtree-Ireland: We’ve Lost Control Over What Our Voice May Say

The dangers of AI to the entertainment industry emerged at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday, with SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland joining a panel of voice actors organized by NAVA, the National Association of Voice Actors, to discuss the specific risks AI is already posing to the profession.

We have to reject the idea that this is just something that will happen to us and we can’t say anything about it, Crabtree-Ireland said at the start of the panel, that AI could wreak havoc on the entertainment industry. I think it definitely could, the question is whether we’re going to let that happen.

Joined by Crabtree-Ireland and NAVA moderator and board member Linsay Rousseau (God of War: Ragnarok), the panel, which played stand-up only, consisted of Ashly Burch (Mythic Quest), Cissy Jones (The Owl House), SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee member Zeke Alton (Call of Duty), and NAVA president and founder Tim Friedlander (Record of Ragnarok).

At issue for the judging panel was the growing certainty that without explicit contractual and statutory protections, AI could not only effectively replace the vast majority of voice actors’ work, but also manipulate their voices to create content without their express consent.

As a human voice actor, I can walk into a room and get a script that says something I didn’t agree to say or something I would never say, I personally have that ability to walk out of that room, Friedlander said. With AI cloning actors’ voices, however, we’ve lost control over what our voice might say, he said.

Without referring to the film by name, Crabtree-Ireland likened the issue to the story of a little mermaid and sea witch who literally steals that mermaid’s voice. As audiences laughed in recognition of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Crabtree-Ireland continued, I remember seeing it for the first time and thinking how awful it is that this sea witch steals this person’s voice and then uses it for whatever. This is exactly what we were talking about.

As an actor, you need to know what they’re going to do with a digital version of you that they’re creating using AI, not in general, Crabtree-Ireland continued.

Jones said that because you can’t put this genie back in the bottle, over the past 18 months, NAVA has created a framework for working within AI ethically. The main points are that voice actors must provide active, informed consent for their voices to be used by the AI ​​(as opposed to what he called a much more expansive passive consent that is buried in contract language); that voice actors must have control over how their voices are used; and that they must be fairly compensated for such use.

Jones added that he is in the early stages of building a company that will provide the first ethical use of voiceover AI.

The sense of urgency to find a solution was brought up several times during the panel.

With the pace of this technology, by the time we figure out the abuses we know will occur, it’s too late, Alton said. One major concern voiced was how AI would specifically foreclose job opportunities for up-and-coming voice actors looking to get started in the field with minor roles in animation and video game roles that AI could easily replace. The speakers also said that it is common for contracts to include broad language that allows studios to own the actors’ work in perpetuity and for use in any technology that currently exists or is to be developed.

For actors just starting out, that kind of contract language could mean your first job could potentially be your last job if you don’t have protection, Friedlander said.

Burch added, I don’t want the next generation of voice actors to not have the potential to build a life that we’ve been able to build in this business.

To that end, Friedlander said NAVA is working with the European Union to get voice protection into the AI ​​Act, which is currently working through the European Parliament. Lui also stated that NAVA has been working with sites hosting game modders who use coding to change the appearance of in-game avatars, sometimes to resemble real people, and real voices to eliminate voice mods that have been obtained without the consent of the actors.

Over the past three months, we’ve had about 6,000 to 7,000 audio files removed from some websites, he said.

Several speakers also highlighted the potentially existential threat AI poses to all types of workers far beyond the entertainment industry.

Artists, programmers, journalists, lawyers, this type of technology will touch every single form of work in the world, Burch said.

Added Crabtree-Ireland: We could all resist the abuse of technology, really, we’re going to say what can be done with our bodies, our voices, our faces, our likenesses and we have to do it.

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Image Source : variety.com

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