Voice actors around the world are taking a stand against the unregulated use of AI to generate and clone human voices, which they fear threatens their jobs.
“We’re up against a really big monster,” said Mario Filio, a Mexican actor who’s done voiceovers for Will Smith, Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, and King Julien in Madagascar.
Under the slogan “Don’t steal our voices,” over 20 voice acting guilds, associations and unions from Europe, the US and Latin America have formed United Voice Artists coalition.
It’s for all those faceless voiceover artists and narrators of commercials, movies, audiobooks and video games who worry that AI or cloning could replace their voices without their permission.The use of AI without limits and regulation is a risk that could lead to the extinction of an irreplaceable artistic heritage of creativity and wonder, something machines can’t manufacture, according to a group with members including the US National Association of Voice Actors (NAVA) and Latin America’s Organization of United Voices.
“Our voices are our livelihood,” NAVA vice president Carin Gilfry said last month. “If we don’t have control over how those voices are used, we won’t be able to make a living.”
Voice artists were already facing competition from text-to-speech tech that turns written texts into synthetic voice. Now AI has brought an even bigger threat.
Thanks to machine learning, software can compare your voice with millions of others and clone it by identifying patterns.
“We’ve been feeding it with voices for years,” said Dessiree Hernandez, president of the Mexican Association of Commercial Announcers.
“It’s like they’re using your voice without your permission,” she added.
Platforms offer human-sounding text-to-speech services for a fraction of what professionals would charge – take revoicer.com, for example, which doesn’t intend to replace human voiceovers, but to provide a quicker and cheaper alternative.Voice actors are worried companies are using their voices to build up their archives, and are looking for tools to track their voices against piracy.
Daniel Soler de la Prada, a Colombian voice artist, is calling for laws to prevent recordings of their voices being used to develop AI without consent, as well as quotas for human voiceovers.
In the future, we could hear a famous actor’s voice in different languages but with the intonation of a dubbing artist – as Filio said.
While this could create employment opportunities and benefits for the public, voice artists need to make sure they’re getting paid fairly.
Maclovia Gonzalez, a Mexican voice artist, said she’d only sign with an AI company if they gave enough info on how the content would be used. “I want to be part of this revolution,” she said, “but not at any price.”Anuar Lopez de la Pena, founder of Art Dubbing—which has had several requests from clients to use synthetic voices—faces a dilemma: “adapt or disappear.”
Filio stopped recording for some clients out of fear it’d hurt his colleagues’ livelihoods, but he’s skeptical AI will completely replace voice actors ’cause they’ve “got no soul.”