I was at a cocktail party last night and the conversations kept gravitating toward – wait for it – AI. One of the guests was a voice over artist who insisted that he was now being pressured to sign contracts that included digital rights (AI synthesis rights) to his voice. He said, in a deep voice over voice, “I absolutely refused to sign.”
In response, I asked, “Are you in SAG/AFTRA?” (the union). In an even deeper voice, he told me that he was proudly independent. I’m not here to shill for union membership, but you won’t hear this story from union members working with signatory companies.
Here’s an interesting twist. Generative synthetic media (in this case, AI-generated voice overs) poses a huge threat to every non-identifiable voice over artist. If you have a “run of the mill” radio announcer voice, a mild mid-western mom voice, or a “suitable for reading a children’s book voice,” you’re in real trouble. AI is close to being great at this, and there isn’t a producer in the world who (if the use case worked for their production) wouldn’t rather pocket your fees and use a chatbot to do your job. Remember: commercial media production is a manufacturing business. Cost-cutting is almost always a primary consideration.
This will not be the case with “identifiable” voices. You won’t be able to use a clone of Morgan Freeman’s voice or Cameron Diaz’s voice without paying their quotes, but… you will be able to get close.
What does “able to get close” mean? Defining this line is where the war between proponents of AI production tools and purists will be fought. It will be a copyright nightmare and the focus of an untold number of lawsuits, and this (very) hot mess will be mirrored by every type of AI production that is “inspired by” or “modeled after” something that identifiably pre-exists.
If you want to understand how prevalent this is going to be, do a little reading about the upcoming Indiana Jones movie.
Watch this space closely. The impact of AI on commercial production has already started with small ads and social content. (Listen closely to some of the synthetic voices used to narrate TikTok or YouTube videos.) As the technology improves, generative synthetic media will find its way into more and more advanced productions. In the very near future, consumer-accessible tech will meet big production-tech (such as the Indiana Jones movie) in the middle, and we will live in a world where it is impossible to distinguish between what is real and what is AI.
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.