After Protecting Live Action Actors, SAG-AFTRA is in Hot Water with New Video Game AI Deal

Voice actors have criticized SAG-AFTRA over the AI deal.

SUMMARY

  • SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios enter a new agreement for AI voice acting in video games.
  • The deal will allow video game developers to use digital voice replicas of voice actors with their consent.
  • Top industry talents have called out the union for the deal.
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SAG-AFTRA, the world’s largest actors union, which also represents voice actors and motion capture performers in the video game industry, has landed into trouble after it signed what it calls a “groundbreaking AI voice agreement” with an AI voiceover company regarding the use of AI voice replicas in video games.

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This move from SAG AFTRA has been condemned by voice actors, especially after it lobbied for live-action actors with a nearly four-month-long strike last year. The voice actors have called out the union and said that nobody in the community was aware of this deal and did not approve it.

SAG-AFTRA Signs Agreement with Replica Studios for Using AI Voice Replicas in Video Games

SAG-AFTRA signs deal with Replica Studio for AI voice acting in video games.
SAG-AFTRA signs a deal with Replica Studio for AI voice acting in video games.

The agreement between SAG-AFTRA and AI voice technology company Replica Studios was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2024 and will lay out terms and conditions for the use of AI-generated voice replicas in video games, and these replicas can be licensed by the studio in both video games and other media formats.

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In the press release, the union stated that this deal will allow Replica and voice actors to engage in a fair and ethical agreement to create and license the voice replicas, meaning that voice actors can give consent or deny the company the use of AI voice replicas. This will also enable AAA game development studios and other companies that work with Replica to work with union members.

SAG-AFTRA also added that this deal has been approved by the “union’s voiceover performer community” members, is an important step to ensure the ethical use of AI voices in video games, and sets fair employment terms for voice actors, including compensation. Moreover, the deal will also allow voice actors to opt out of having their voices used in any new projects, should they choose to.

SAG-AFTRA has been criticized for the deal and the voice actors called out the union for not discussing it.
SAG-AFTRA has been criticized for the deal and the voice actors called out the union for not discussing it.

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said that the union is happy about the agreement citing it as “a great example of AI being done right.” National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator of the union, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland stated that this deal was a need after AI technological advancements in recent times and also paves the way for other AI voice firms to follow Replica.

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This deal comes after SAG-AFTRA protected live-action actors and signed an agreement with the producers. While it was accepted, this new deal has led to the criticism of the union and voice actors have come out and stated that they were not aware of this and haven’t been consulted either. Several top talents in the industry have called out the union over the AI deal.

Voice actor Steve Blum, popular for voice acting in the animated series Cowboy Bebop and games like Mortal Kombat and God of War, said that nobody in the community approves of this deal. Samantha A. Morrison, a voice-acting casting director, stated that the union is spreading lies, and no voice actor would approve of this. She asked SAG-AFTRA to show the terms.

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Voice actor Veronica Taylor, who has voiced Ash Ketchum in the Pokémon anime, April in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Cosmos in the Final Fantasy video game series, asked the union how the agreement was passed without any notice or vote from the union members. She also added that this agreement and use of AI are “a slippery slope downward.”

Many other voice actors also expressed their views on the agreement, and voice actor Damien Haas, known for his role in Halo, said that the union has failed the voice actors and wondered if the union is just incompetent or if this deal is the outcome of greed.

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SAG-AFTRA has been negotiating for voice actors in video games about fair compensation and workplace safety and even authorized a deal, but it hasn’t happened yet and seems like it might be away anymore.

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Written by Rohit Tiwari

Articles Published: 821

Rohit Tiwari is a Gaming Journalist and Editor at FandomWire. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, Rohit combines academic insight with a passion for the games and the stories they tell. He is an ardent supporter of Real Madrid and when he's not busy playing games, you'll find him reading or idolizing the GOAT Cristiano Ronaldo.