Voice actors are facing growing competition from artificial intelligence, which could eventually force those who ply the trade out of work, the media outlet Vice has reported. The article cited a recent case where internet users used a beta version of the software to replicate the voices of several celebrities.
In its report on Tuesday, Vice’s outlet Motherboard quoted several actors and industry advocacy groups as warning that waiver clauses are becoming increasingly common in contracts, with voice actors being asked to sign away the rights to their voices. Synthetic versions of the voices are then apparently generated, sometimes with the actor receiving no additional compensation.
According to the outlet, a stunt pulled off by 4chan members last month, where they simulated famous actors reading sections of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, highlighted the ease with which the voice-replicating technology can be applied.
ElevenLabs, the company whose software was used, states on its website that it seeks to “make on-demand multilingual audio support a reality across education, streaming, audiobooks, gaming, movies, and even real-time conversation.”
In fact, as Vice points out, there exists a multitude of other similar businesses, most of which typically ask a user to record anywhere from ten to 60 minutes of audio, which is then used to create a synthetic replica of the person’s voice. The user can then enter any text and the system will read it out loud. Other websites also allow people to upload any previously recorded audio, the article notes. Some of these services are free to use, while others charge a small fee.
Game and animation voice actor SungWon Cho lamented to Vice that “it’s disrespectful to the craft to suggest that generating a performance is equivalent to a real human being’s performance.”
His colleague Fryda Wolff warned that unscrupulous clients could resort to such technology when a voice actor objects to reading some part of a script.
Tim Friedlander, president and founder of the National Association of Voice Actors (NAVA), is quoted in the report as explaining that waiver clauses in contracts are often shrouded in “confusing and ambiguous” language.
Friedlander went on to warn that if current trends continue unchanged, sections of the voice acting industry will be lost to AI, with less established actors at particular risk.