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Hi-Rez Studios is allegedly cloning actors' voices with AI

It's claimed the Paladins developer isn't just having AI clone performances of voice actors for its games, it's also reportedly not letting actors opt out of having their voice rights signed away.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

August 17, 2023

2 Min Read
Splash art for Ravana in Hi-Rez Studios' Smite.

Voice actor Henry Schrader has claimed Hi-Rez Studios, developers of Smite and Paladins, is using AI to clone actors' performances without their consent. Schrader further claims that the developer is actively refusing to add a measure into voice actors' contracts that would allow them to turn down their voices being used for machine learning.

Those unnamed actors, according to him, "were told they can't even see the contract until they sign the NDA. [...]  This means that VAs who sign that NDA can't even warn people who might be new or might not know better against working for them." 

Earlier in the year, voice actors revealed that contracts from possible clients were asking them to sign away their voice rights to be used by AI software. Some have noted that they didn't even realize those AI clauses had been written in until after the fact, and others have been explicitly told they won't get hired unless they agree.

Similar concerns have been raised over video game modders using actors' performances without their explicit consent. 

"The contract won't have anything to do with AI protections, and [Hi-Rez] knows that," continued Schrader. "This is about silencing people that they already know are against them."

In response to Schrader's claims, Hi-Rez CEO Stewart Chisam posted a section of the studio's clause on Twitter. That slice of the clause specifically states that it "agrees not to use, or sublicense, the Performance to simulate Talent's voice or likeness or to create any synthesized or 'digital double' voice or likeness of talent."

Calling AI a "broad topic," Chisam acknowledged that it "took some time to work out the right legal language" for the AI rider for voice talent that he said he approved. He later released a copy of the entire AI rider that gets sent out to future contracts that require a voice actor's signature.

"We'll never say never in terms of use of AI," he added, "in part because I can't predict the future for AI in 3 months, much less 30 years. [...] But I think it would be scuzzy and weird to use a human actor's voice for AI work without their permission, so that's something we [don't] have an intention to do."

Game Developer has reached out to both Hi-Rez and Schrader, and will update this story when a response is given.

Note: This post has been updated with additional information from Hi-Rez CEO Stewart Chisam.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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