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PSA for voice actors - do NOT accept this job


joyh97
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I just received this message today. While I've been aware of this for some time (and many of you probably are also) I wanted to bring awareness to it as it is still happening:

"Hi! I’m looking to see if you have 19 hours’ worth of voice recordings (voice acting in an American accent) from past projects where you do dialogues, covering a wide range of emotions. If you don’t have that much, we can do 10 hours. No need to record from scratch, just give me raw files of your recordings from old projects with no processing in WAV format (44.1kHz). There must be no background noise or sound effects. Recordings must only contain YOUR voice."

If you receive this kind of message, I strongly advise you to refuse the job.

The purpose of this is to use the voice files to generate a realistic AI voice from your voice and use it without permission for things like advertisements etc. They also usually offer meagre compensation (I was only offered $25 which is a joke for 20 hours of recordings). I asked what it was for and the buyer confirmed it was to generate an AI voice, though other buyers may not be up front about this. While this AI voice isn't a perfect replica of a human voice, it is certainly passable enough for some purposes. Once they have the files, they can get the AI to say anything they want and it will sound like you. This has some scary implications for many reasons. Please be careful

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2 hours ago, joyh97 said:

 

If you receive this kind of message, I strongly advise you to refuse the job.

 

Indeed. These AI scammers will steal your voice and resell it as an AI voice, earning money using YOUR work, for next to nothing. I would also recommend staying away from any job that requires you to read long lists of words or sentences, unless you really trust the client and know what it's for. 

AI voices is a nasty business. Most of the companies offering them have stolen the work from real voice over actors. It's sad, really. I wish Fiverr would ban AI voices from the platform entirely, but it looks like they are going the other way, and even including them in the voice over category. I've seen four AI gigs in my language niche the past few months. 

Even FIverr is using AI voices now, to offer up "free AI auditions" from its VAs. Not a fan. 

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2 hours ago, joyh97 said:

If you receive this kind of message, I strongly advise you to refuse the job.

There is also the issue of ownership. If you were paid to record that audio, your buyer holds the rights to it. You are not only running the risk of distributing work which you no longer have the legal rights to, but you are certainly violating the privacy between you and your client by distributing their files without their consent. A very bad move either way.   

Edited by newsmike
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5 hours ago, smashradio said:

Indeed. These AI scammers will steal your voice and resell it as an AI voice

If they're being open and honest about what they are doing they're not scamming - except for the bit about past projects if it means projects done for other clients where the rights belong to those other clients. And they wouldn't be stealing it if they're paying for it through an order. The pay may be too low though. Though maybe it would have been better if they'd said what it was for without being asked so the seller knew.

Edited by uk1000
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1 hour ago, uk1000 said:

If they're being open and honest about what they are doing they're not scamming - except for the bit about past projects if it means projects done for other clients where the rights belong to those other clients. And they wouldn't be stealing it if they're paying for it through an order. The pay may be too low though. Though maybe it would have been better if they'd said what it was for without being asked so the seller knew.

Here's the thing. Most of these companies will not be open about it, and even when they are, the rates they offer are nothing short of scandalous. They will basically own your voice, forever, to make us of as they see fit, and they will re-sell this voice over, most likely without your permission. This isn't Google or Apple and their assistants we're talking about. (But hey, even Apple used their Siri voice without getting permission from the voice over actor). These are companies who take your voice, with or without your knowledge, and earn a buttload of money on it, without you having any control whatsoever, about what is being said using your voice. 

A UK friend of mine who at the time was fairly new to voice over, thought such a job was to be used for AI training, but didn't know that an international terror organization would use his voice to promote their wicked views in a video. A year later, and his voice is still out there on extremist forums, speaking words he never said. And it all started with a company offering a few hundred bucks for some "sentences" to "train AI". 

In my view, that's immoral, it's theft, and I don't really care if they are "open" about it - because most newbies in the industry won't have any clue about what's going on until it's too late. 

If a thief goes inside an office and says to the receptionist in a casual and natural, believable way, that he is just going to bring a computer for maintenance, and the receptionist – however naively – belives him, it would still be stealing when he walks out the door, even if he brings the computer home to fix it up before selling it on. 

1 hour ago, newsmike said:

Actually, Apple treated Susan Bennett (Siri) very badly. 

https://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2108-i-am-siris-voice-4-bizarre-realities.html

That article perfectly encapsulates everything wrong with the "TTS business". It's a dirty business, and their only goal is to use us as voice actors to make the AI voices good enough to compete with... us. 

Even Apple is in on it. 

Yuck. 

Edited by smashradio
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10 hours ago, smashradio said:

without you having any control whatsoever, about what is being said using your voice. 

Then maybe you could have them sign some agreement as a condition of them purchasing the voice over(s) about what things it can/can't be used for, where there could be legal/financial consequences if they used it in ways you disallow in that agreement.

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4 hours ago, uk1000 said:

Then maybe you could have them sign some agreement as a condition of them purchasing the voice over(s) about what things it can/can't be used for, where there could be legal/financial consequences if they used it in ways you disallow in that agreement.

They would never sign it. The thing is: this "industry" will let other people type in what they want and have my voice say it. I don't have any control and they don't have any control. Besides, it's bad for business, since I earn a living from my voice. It's like if I took all of your editing skills, used them to program an automated tool that can do a similar (but not as good) of a job editing and animating. Then resell that to anyone and put your name on it without you having any control over it. It's a beast. Our voice is our brand. 

If I came up with a contract that protected me against what they are doing, they wouldn't buy from me in the first place. So I find it easier to just say "Thanks, but no thanks" to these people. 

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1 hour ago, smashradio said:

The thing is: this "industry" will let other people type in what they want and have my voice say it. I don't have any control and they don't have any control

I think different business will have different controls over it. eg. there's an AI avatar company that an AI youtuber uses and that company puts limits on what the avatar can say in their Terms of Service (eg. not "...in a way that a person would reasonably find offensive" and not having it "make any statement of opinion" or "statement of fact regarding religion, politics etc.").

So that avatar company and other companies that just work with the voice would have be ability to check the text that's being input to make sure it's within their terms (while you might be right that not all do, if they wanted, they could, like that avatar company does). Or they could take action if there's a manual flag like Fiverr does.

For AI voices maybe in future they might make it a mix of lots of people's voices so that no one person would be affected much. eg. if it was only using 5% or 1% of a person's voice and the rest was other people's when it's creating a particular voice (eg. a particular AI voice model may be trained with 100 people's voices) it wouldn't sound very like any individual person so wouldn't negatively affect business for them much.

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5 hours ago, uk1000 said:

I think different business will have different controls over it. eg. there's an AI avatar company that an AI youtuber uses and that company puts limits on what the avatar can say in their Terms of Service (eg. not "...in a way that a person would reasonably find offensive" and not having it "make any statement of opinion" or "statement of fact regarding religion, politics etc.").

So that avatar company and other companies that just work with the voice would have be ability to check the text that's being input to make sure it's within their terms (while you might be right that not all do, if they wanted, they could, like that avatar company does). Or they could take action if there's a manual flag like Fiverr does.

For AI voices maybe in future they might make it a mix of lots of people's voices so that no one person would be affected much. eg. if it was only using 5% or 1% of a person's voice and the rest was other people's when it's creating a particular voice (eg. a particular AI voice model may be trained with 100 people's voices) it wouldn't sound very like any individual person so wouldn't negatively affect business for them much.

I see your point. But the fact is that this is very difficult to do across multiple languages, and it's rather easy to circumvent. 

Safe to say; if an AI company wanted my voice, they would have to set me up for life. Then, and only then, would I consider it. 

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Thank you for this message. Good to bring awareness for people and make them feel safe. Scams like these should be banned from Fiverr platform.

 

Freelancers that are actually trying to help people are the real ones!

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