March 27, 2024
Hollywood Union, Replica Deal, Regulating AI Voices
AI

Hollywood Union, Replica Deal: Regulating AI Voices

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), a prominent trade union representing 150,000 film and TV professionals, has entered into a significant agreement with Replica Studios, an artificial intelligence (AI) voice technology company. The deal, described as “groundbreaking,” focuses on the use of AI voices in video games and was announced by SAG-AFTRA on January 9.

Under this agreement, Replica Studios will have the capability to create and license a digital replica of actors protected by SAG-AFTRA, ensuring that the process adheres to “fair and ethical” conditions. The licensed voices can be incorporated into AAA video games and other interactive media projects, spanning from pre-production to the final release.

“With this agreement, we have achieved fully informed consent and fair compensation when it comes to the use of our members voices and performances.”

The deal includes “minimum terms and conditions,” offering performers the right to provide consent and negotiate with the AI company. Additionally, actors possess the authority to opt out of the “continued use” of their voices in “new projects.”

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director and chief negotiator of SAG-AFTRA, expressed satisfaction with the outcomes of the negotiations, stating that the union successfully achieved all its objectives.

However, the agreement has generated mixed reactions within the acting community and among some SAG-AFTRA members. Critics argue that actors would prefer to act on record rather than merely provide a sample of their voice. Concerns have also been raised about the lack of detailed information in the SAG-AFTRA press release and the absence of a voting process during the confirmation of the deal by the union.

This agreement follows a previous major deal in November 2023, where SAG-AFTRA established guidelines for the creation, use, and modification of “digital replicas” of performers in collaboration with major film studios. The terms of this deal included compensation for the creation and utilization of AI replicas, extending to their use in additional projects or other mediums.

While the November 2023 agreement received an 86% confirmation vote within SAG-AFTRA, it, too, prompted a mixed response within the acting community. In a related development in September 2023, the Writer’s Guild of America concluded a strike with a deal that curtailed the studio’s ability to compel screenwriters to use AI.

Photo by Edgar Colomba

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