AI Protections Secured for Animation Voice Actors

SAG-AFTRA union members voted to back the deal which provides compensation to actors if their voice is used to make AI-generated clones

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

April 2, 2024

2 Min Read
Sound recording room with noise insulation. Microphone with pop filter.

Voice actors working on animated shows are now protected if their voices are used to create digital replicas.

SAG-AFTRA members struck a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) last week, voting overwhelmingly in favor of the three-year contract in a 95.52% to 4.48% vote.

Among the terms, the contract “acknowledges the importance” of human voice acting and stipulates that voice actors should only refer to humans.

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Voice actors will receive compensation if a synthetic voice is created using their performances for a recognizable character.

Digital replicas could be compensated even if they don't sound like the original voice actor, “as long as it can be shown that the digital replica was made using the voice actor’s voice,” according to the contract. Previously, digital replicas had to sound like the actor.

“Given that animation voiceover performances often achieve a distinct character voice that doesn’t sound necessarily like the actor’s normal speaking voice, we gained a critical new A.I. recognizability approach,” the union said.

Voice actors would also be entitled to residuals if their performance is digitally altered into a foreign language.

Under the terms, producers would be required to notify and bargain with the actor’s union if it opts to use a digital voice instead of a human voice actor.

Related:SAG-AFTRA Deal with AI Voice Cloners Angers Many Actors

The rules require actor consent before prompting an AI system to generate a synthetic voice of that individual.

The contract also forces producers to have regular meetings with the union to discuss how to track the use of digital replicas.

“Technology is changing quickly and both parties understand that we will not simply wait for the contract cycle to conclude when we can be making critical adjustments in real-time,” the union said.

The newly struck agreement covers animated series, mini-series and TV movies, but not theatrical animated movies.

The deal is retroactive to July 1, 2023 ending on June 30, 2026.

“We were able to ride the wave of our strike victory to secure a better deal for members,” said SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “That momentum paid off in terms of substantial wage increases, more than $3 million in back pay, two new holidays and the first SAG-AFTRA animation voiceover contract with artificial intelligence protections and gains.”

The animation deal follows SAG-AFTRA’s TV/Theatrical Contract which was only signed after a months-longstrike, with the use of AI by film and TV studios being one of the divisive issues.

Related:Actors Strike Over AI: A Glimpse of Workers' Future?

In November SAG-AFTRA secured a contract compensating actors for the use of their AI-generated likenesses in TV shows and movies. Like the animation deal, actor consent must be obtained before their likeness can be used to create digital replicas of them.

The AMPTP deal comes after SAG-AFTRA faced backlash for striking a partnership with Replica to allow performers to create and license digital replicas of their voices. Voice actors expressed anger and dismay over the deal, with many arguing the agreement was struck without member approval.

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About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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