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Voice-Over

The FTC Sparks Hope for Change in The Fight Against Generative AI

Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning

30 October 2023

The FTC Sparks Hope for Change in The Fight Against Generative AI - Voquent

In recent times, the voiceover community has been especially vocal about the threat that generative AI poses to our industry.

The emergence of AI technology has worryingly outpaced the laws and regulations surrounding it, leaving us in a state of uncertainty towards what the future of voiceover might look like.

It’s easy to forget that this issue stretches far beyond us. Models, authors, actors, programmers, artists, writers and others in the creative and tech fields are experiencing the same uneasiness – We are fighting the same fight, and it’s time to work together.

Recently, The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) held a panel with influential figures from all these industries to discuss AI’s unfair business practices and the genuinely horrifying examples of AI’s misuse towards the general public.

Whether you’re a voice actor, a digital artist, or, as it turns out, anyone at all – this panel might just prove to be the turning point we’re all looking for.

 

What is Generative AI?

Generative AI has been taking the world by storm, allowing users to produce human-like creative content, such as text, images, and even voiceover. The creation of AI systems involves deep learning techniques, where a vast amount of data is used to train the AI on how to recreate something similar.

In AI art, this data would be thousands of images. For voiceover, thousands of audio files. The AI will then use this information to generate “new” content based on the input it receives from the user. The more data used to train the AI, the better and more relevant its creations become.

We’ve begun to see this technology used in multiple industries, threatening to replace writers, programmers, models, artists, actors, and voice actors. The most disturbing part of all is that the data used to train the AI is usually scraped from the internet, without permission or compensation, from the exact sources the AI threatens to replace – creatives themselves.

 

Who is the FTC?

Established in 1914, the FTC is a US regulatory agency with the responsibility of enacting challenges and investigations on behalf of consumer interests and maintaining fair practices within business. i.e., they prevent companies from monopolising a particular industry through mergers and buyouts or making any decisions that would prevent fair competition between suppliers.

Federal Trade Commission Logo

In this case, creatives are the suppliers who are now struggling to compete with the cheap rates of AI-generated content. The FTC has the ability to enforce antitrust laws against deceptive and unfair business practices to maintain a healthy market.

They may well be the saving grace creatives are looking for in the fight against human-created content training AI without consent, only to compete with the people whose work trained them.

 

The Creative Economy & Generative AI

The FTC plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy economic environment, and as AI’s application has been rapidly increasing, they partnered up with the Office of Technology to investigate and discuss the concerns.

On October 4th 2023, the FTC released the ‘Creative Economy & Generative AI’ panel meeting, where representatives of various creative industries and organisations collected to discuss how data is obtained by AI, examples of AI’s dangerous use, and the need for regulation.

The industry representatives included Duncan Crabtree-Ireland of SAG-AFTRA, John August of The Writers Guild of America, Sarah Ziff of Model Alliance, Umair Kazi of The Authors Guild, and more influential figures.

They presented chilling examples of AI’s role in harmful practices, such as AI models for companies to appear more diverse, published books being sold under the names of popular authors who didn’t write them (or even know they existed), and, of course, cloning voice actors to use their voices in controversial and offensive material without permission or compensation.

The number of worrying examples given tells the story of how AI technology is already accelerating at a much faster pace than the regulation that should be controlling it. However, witnessing these industries come together with a collective goal and message might push for positive advances on exactly that: regulating AI’s ability to steal, plagiarise, fraud, and ultimately compete with human creators.

 

Voquent & NAVA Voices

Tim Friedlander, President and co-founder of The National Association of Voice Actors (NAVA), was also a contributor at the event. He discussed the various threats that AI-generated voices pose to the talent in our industry, such as the difficulty of competing against a cheaper version of your own voice, how easy it is to obtain the audio needed in voice cloning, and how contracts that predate AI voice synthesis are now being used to justify a lack of consent today.

Ultimately, Tim explained the plight of voice actors on this topic and what voices need moving forward: Consent, Compensation and Control.

NAVA Voices - Fair compensation coalition badge

At Voquent, we take our role in helping to protect the voices on our platform and advocate for the wider industry seriously. In 2022, we updated our terms of service to make it especially clear that we will not work with voice actors on our platform in connection with creating AI voices without express permission or audio recorded for that specific purpose.

Since then, we have made the decision not to work on AI projects whatsoever, at least until we see improved regulation towards the creation and misuse of AI. Tim gave a particularly disturbing example of misuse during the meeting, where he talked about how AI voice clones are already being used in scams. He discussed how a contact of his received a phone call from an alleged kidnapper claiming to have kidnapped his daughter and even seemingly put his daughter on the phone to ask for help. However, this was a clone of her voice being used to scam him.

Stories like this show how generative AI is not only an issue in our industry but a potential threat to everyone, and this further solidifies the need for regulation and controlled access.

 

What’s Next?

The future of generative AI regulation is still unclear.

The FTC has the ability to step in and challenge unfair business practices, and we may well see this happen in the future. This panel could be the turning point where we begin to see governments considering methods of controlling AI’s misuse. However, what form this will take is still up in the air.

We could see voice actors finally having the right to own their own voice, giving solid legal justification to seek compensation from those who recreate it.

We could see limitations on the public’s access to AI software to prevent mass cases of fraud.

Ultimately, only time will tell. For now, we need to keep doing what we do best – using our voice.

 

AI Voice Cloning – Voquent’s Official Stance

Dylan de Koning

By Dylan de Koning

Dylan de Koning is a narrative writer, script reader and film buff from Scotland.

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