Stephen Fry recently revealed at the CogX Festival (via Forbes) that his voice from the “Harry Potter” audiobooks was taken by AI software and replicated without his consent, much to the horror of both himself and his agents.
“I’m a proud member of [actors’ union SAG-AFTRA]. As you know, we’ve been on strike for three months now. And one of the burning issues is AI,” Fry said before playing a clip of his voice narrating a historical documentary. Only it wasn’t Fry’s voice. It was an AI replication of his voice.
“I said not one word of that — it was a machine. Yes, it shocked me,” Fry said. “They used my reading of the seven volumes of the ‘Harry Potter’ books, and from that dataset an AI of my voice was created, and it made that new narration.”
“What you heard was not the result of a mashup. This is from a flexible artificial voice, where the words are modulated to fit the meaning of each sentence,” Fry added. “It could therefore have me read anything from a call to storm Parliament to hard porn, all without my knowledge and without my permission. And this, what you just heard, was done without my knowledge. So I heard about this, I sent it to my agents on both sides of the Atlantic, and they went ballistic — they had no idea such a thing was possible.”
Fry served as the audiobook narrator for the “Harry Potter” series in the United Kingdom. He said the discovery of AI mimicking his voice led him to warn his agents, “You ain’t seen nothing yet. This is audio. It won’t be long until full deepfake videos are just as convincing.”
AI has become one of the focal points of the ongoing WGA and SAG-AFRA strikes. Bryan Cranston delivered a fiery address to Disney CEO Bob Iger in July in which he said actors would not let studios take their jobs away with AI replication.
“We’ve got a message for Mr. Iger,” Cranston. “I know, sir, that you look [at] things through a different lens. We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to hear us, and beyond that to listen to us when we tell you we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots. We will not have you take away our right to work and earn a decent living. And lastly, and most importantly, we will not allow you to take away our dignity! We are union through and through, all the way to the end!”
Fry most recently appeared in Prime Video’s “Red, White & Royal Blue,” now streaming.