National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator for the SAG-AFTRA Duncan Crabtree-Ireland joined a panel at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). It was a joint panel with the National Association of Voice Actors titled “AI in Entertainment: The Performers’ Perspective.”
Moderated by Linsay Rousseau (“Transformers: War for Cybertron”), panelists included Ashly Burch (“Mythic Quest”), Crabtree-Ireland, and Cissy Jones (“The Owl House”). Along with Zeke Alton (“The Calisto Protocol”) a SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee member ,and Tim Friedlander (“Record of Ragnarok”) NAVA president and founder. They will discuss the existing legalities about the use of AI and what protections need to be implemented to protect performers.
The use of AI technology is a huge corner stone of both the current WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Especially since it has been revealed performers likenesses may be exploitable by AI via full body and emotion scans. There is also a disagreement over the most recent “groundbreaking” proposal offered by the AMPTP to SAG-AFTRA.
Voiceover artist Cissy Jones expressed concern about “public fan mods.” These are fans using a celebrity vocal likeness to say whatever they want, then posting it across the internet. While it’s not all bad and some “can be cheeky, in other instances it can be hurtful,” Jones said during the panel. “If I don’t have ability to control what my voice says, and what is fake or not, it can do harm to me personally, financially, and (there are things) I don’t want my children to hear. I understand the fun of it, but I would ask with my entire soul that they (fans) put themselves in our shoes.”
Tim Friedlander’s concern went a little past fan mods. He explained that there are instances of voiceover performers finding their work from one game, being used in another, without their consent. Not to mention similar instances with promos and deep fakes, the latter often being used in nefarious ways.
“Anyone who has watched Joan Is Awful, the first episode of ‘Black Mirror‘ this season — anyone can imagine a world not too far off from today where the abuse effects us today,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “Everyone is concerned with their personal life–maybe their face is used without any real informed consent. A.I. can be implemented in a human-centric way instead of breaking them down. A.I. is implemented voluntarily by these big corporations, and people need to hold them accountable. We don’t accept the premise that we do what they say.”
The bottom line everyone is looking for here is simply, consent. “That means performers need to understand what’s going to be done with the digital replica of their voice,” Crabtree-Ireland continued. While AI abuse is happening all over the entertainment industry, it’s “happening in voice acting more than any other field.”
When it comes to AI, “No one should think that there’s less resolve in the voiceover actor or gaming community” Crabtree-Ireland said. He encouraged fans to speak out to these companies. “They care about shareholder value the bottom line, and consumers turning away.”
All while “We’re bargaining for our very existence,” SAG/AFTRA negotiating member Zeke Alton said. “This isn’t a contract battle between a union and a company,” added Crabtree-Ireland, “it’s existential.” We hope this panel helps shed some more light on the current state of the entertainment industry, as well as the profound impact AI can have on the often devalued voice acting community.
WGA and SAG-AFTRA are still on strike.