Voice Actors Rally Together at Comic-Con to Combat the Exploitation of AI

by | Jul 23, 2023

In a remarkable display of solidarity, voice actors from across the entertainment industry congregated at this year’s Comic-Con to raise awareness about the imminent peril posed by artificial intelligence (AI) on their profession. The National Association of Voice Actors (NAVA) orchestrated a panel, featuring industry experts and representatives from the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), to deliberate on the escalating concerns and potential repercussions of AI technology.

The ambiance within the convention center crackled with fervor as voice actors, donned in the attire of their beloved characters, ascended the stage to defend their craft. The stakes were elevated, as the rapid advancement of AI technology cast a shadow of uncertainty over their livelihoods. Whether through animated films or video games, voice actors breathe life into characters with their distinctive vocal talents. However, with AI technology making unprecedented strides, their very existence in the industry became a subject of scrutiny.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the executive director of SAG-AFTRA, delivered an impassioned address, urging his fellow voice actors to reject the prevailing notion that AI is an inevitable and insurmountable force. He argued that it is imperative to adopt a proactive stance in safeguarding the rights and livelihoods of voice actors, as well as those of other professionals in the industry.

One of the pivotal issues underscored during the panel was the absence of legal protections for an individual’s likeness. Presently, no laws exist to shield a person’s voice, face, or likeness from unauthorized usage. This loophole renders voice actors vulnerable to having their voices pilfered and exploited, potentially tarnishing their reputations and impeding their careers.

The concerns expressed by voice actors extend beyond their own profession and resonate with other fields as well. AI technology possesses the potential to disrupt the work of writers, actors, lawyers, and even social media influencers. Its pervasive reach and multifaceted impact underscore the necessity of collectively addressing these concerns.

Studios and media conglomerates have faced criticism for prioritizing their competitive advantage over individual rights. Existing contracts often grant companies the ability to capture an actor’s voice or likeness and utilize it indefinitely, with minimal compensation or control for the voice actor. This exploitation raises ethical questions and underscores the need for the implementation of protective contract language and global legislation.

During the panel, various manifestations of AI were explored, with a particular emphasis on voice work. While AI technology can enhance voice performances in video games and other media, it also harbors the potential for exploitative applications. Voice actors stressed the need for safeguards and regulations to prevent the misuse of AI and safeguard their creative output.

The panel consisted of notable industry professionals such as Linsay Rousseau, Ashly Burch, Cissy Jones, Zeke Alton, and Tim Friedlander, in addition to SAG-AFTRA executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. Collectively, their objective was to raise awareness, educate the public, and advocate for the rights of voice actors in the face of advancing AI technology.

In a demonstration of solidarity, film and television actors also abstained from attending San Diego Comic-Con as a gesture of support for the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. This strike underscores the significance of equitable remuneration, working conditions, and protection against the exploitative practices that AI technology can facilitate.

Fans, too, have been encouraged to actively participate in the cause. They are implored to help identify and report instances of voice theft, ensuring that the voices of their favorite actors are not misappropriated or pilfered for nefarious purposes.

As the specter of AI looms over the entire entertainment industry, it is imperative to confront these concerns head-on. The collaborative efforts of NAVA and SAG-AFTRA to protect voice actors and avert the misuse of AI technology are setting a crucial precedent for the industry at large.

To conclude, the battle against exploitative AI is gaining momentum, with voice actors taking a resolute stand at Comic-Con. The panelists’ impassioned discussions, calls for protective contract language and global legislation, and emphasis on individual identity serve as a clarion call for the industry to unite and safeguard its creative workforce. By actively addressing the ethical challenges posed by AI, the entertainment industry can ensure a just and sustainable future for all. The lines of battle have been drawn, and the voice actors are poised to fight for what is rightfully theirs. Will the industry heed their plea? Only time will unveil the answer.