Could ‘The Simpsons’ Replace Its Voice Actors With AI?


On the one hand, contracts can limit what the studio is allowed to do with the recordings. Added to this are collective bargaining issues – the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA has, Rothman says, “been very active in trying to regulate the resuscitation and reuse of both voice actors and voice actors. screen.”

However, in the absence of contractual stipulations, copyright comes into play. “Whoever owns the copyright of The simpsons would own all reproduction rights to any copyrighted works they have previously made, including captured recordings of actors’ performances, and the right under copyright law to create works derivatives, ”says Rothman.

But that comes up against another set of laws governing the right to ad, which varies across the United States. “This publicity right gives performers the right to control unauthorized use of their names, likenesses, performances and often also their voices,” says Rothman.

There is also, says Johanna Gibson – a professor of intellectual property law at Queen Mary, University of London – a potential recourse for actors in a bogus application for approval. Yes The simpsons used a Deepfake Homer to advertise chocolate bars, this could be seen as a personal endorsement from actor Dan Castellaneta. The law could also, Gibson says, vary even between different characters played by the same actor on the same show – it uses the example of Seth MacFarlane from Family guy, whose voice Brian is his real voice and is likely to have more protections, while Stewie is a voice created specifically for the series. (Of course, in this case, MacFarlane is the show’s creator, and he’s unlikely to be replaced by an AI against his will).

In 1993, two actors from Cheers—George Wendt and John Ratzenberger—for follow-up Paramount to use their likenesses for robotic versions of their characters used in airport bars. The actors argued that the right to publicity gave them control over their own image, the studio argued that copyright law allowed them to create derivative works based on the sitcom. The case dragged on in court for eight years, and the studio ultimately settled for an undisclosed amount. “The law is unclear, which suggests that if the contract doesn’t say the studio can do it, then it’s uncertain how such disputes would emerge if litigated,” Rothman says. “This is an unresolved problem. The legal framework for resolving these cases is quite complicated. “

But voice actors probably don’t need to phone their lawyers just yet. None of the people who make these voice generation tools are doing it for the purpose of replacing actors. Sonantic and Replica would like to point out that they work with actors and that they have revenue sharing models in place so that voice actors make money every time their “ voice ” is used. in a game.

As this technology improves and the voices it creates emerge from the “strange valley,” they could, Nivas says, help democratize content creation – allowing fans to The simpsons to legally use the voices of their favorite characters for their own projects, for example, to make mashups and remixes that breathe new life into a tired show.

Zeena Qureshi, CEO and co-founder of Sonantic, compares current voice generation technology to CGI’s early days. “It reproduces an actor’s voice, but it’s not going to replace them,” she said. “CGI hasn’t replaced cinematographers, it’s not going to replace actors, but it helps them work in person and virtually. If someone withdraws, their voice can work for them. “

McSmythurs also draws a comparison to CGI and says that while you can make a compelling episode of The simpsons today (with a lot of iterations and effort), it might struggle to stand the test of time – in the same way that 90s CGI movies seem old-fashioned to modern eyes. He sees a use of technology for short clips – things like reviving a character played by a deceased actor for a final farewell, but doesn’t think an AI casting will be a practical route anytime soon. “Voice actors bring more than just a voice, they bring that emotional content,” he says. “Dan Castellaneta imbues this 2D character with warmth, depth and all the qualities that make us like him. Humans do a very good job as humans. “

This story originally appeared on WIRED UK.


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