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SAG-AFTRA's new agreement lets game devs use AI voices

Amidst continued AI negotiations, SAG-AFTRA's locked down a way for developers to use digital voice replicas in future works.

Justin Carter

January 9, 2024

2 Min Read
Logo for SAG-AFTRA.
Image via SAG-AFTRA.

At a Glance

  • A new agreement struck with AI voice company Replica Studios paves the way for studios to have fully digital voices in games.

Studios working with voice technology company Replica Studios are now permitted by acting and performance union SAG-AFTRA to use voices replicated by generative AI in their games.

Per the Hollywood Reporter, the union and Replica struck an agreement letting developers (triple-A and otherwise) to "access top SAG-AFTRA talent," and for actors to "safely explore new employment opportunities for their digital voice replicas with industry-leading protections." The Guild says the agreement sets terms and conditions for the use of AI-generated voices, and requires voice actors to consent for the use of their voices and negotiate further terms of use when working with the studio.

Replica Studios will be required to allow performers to opt out of continued use of their voice in new works. The contract covers other interactive media and spans from pre-production to final release.

The agreement was revealed at CES 2024. Just a day prior, it was revealed that Ubisoft and Tencent were using NVIDIA's AI-generated Ace toolset, which lets studios create generative NPCs.

The use of AI voices has been heavily debated video games. Voice actors in the past revealed contract clauses that wanted them to sign over their voice rights, and they're overall not a fan of the technology.

At present, Embark's The Finals is a game that uses AI voices in its entirety. Voice actors believe it may only be a matter of time before that becomes the norm in the industry.

SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said the agreement secures actors' consent and negotiation for their digital voice. It's also required that actors be allowed to opt out of AI being used in new works.

"This agreement is about voice replication in video games,” said Crabtree-Ireland. "[Voice actors] are on cutting edge of the implementation of AI and the risks that come with it."

Replica CEO Shreyas Nivas said the agreement lets studios using its platform can only access the company's technology on talent that have given express permission for their voice to be used for training.

He went on to say the agreement "introduces an ethical approach to the emerging use of generative AI."

Update: This story has been updated to clarify the agreement covers Replica Studios specifically, along with a statement from Replica CEO Shreyas Nivas.

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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