SAG-AFTRA strikes again, this time it’s a deal with an AI studio

10 Jan 2024

Image: © MichaelVi/

Members of the union will see a digital replica of their voice licensed by Replica Studios under a new ‘fair and ethical agreement’ signed at CES Las Vegas yesterday.

SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union that was behind the Hollywood strikes last year, has struck a deal with AI voiceover company Replica Studios that sets the terms for use of AI in video games.

The agreement aims to bolster protections for actors and voiceover artists in the use of their digital voice replicas with AI technology.

Union members will see the digital replica of their voice licensed by Replica under a “fair, ethical agreement” for use in video game development and other interactive media projects from pre-production to final release.

Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, said that the deal, announced at CES in Las Vegas yesterday (9 January), is a “great example of AI being done right”.

“Artificial intelligence has dominated the headlines, and for most performers, the best protection against the unauthorised digital simulation of their voice, likeness and/or performance is a SAG-AFTRA contract,” Dresher said.

The union said the agreement sets the basis for fair and equitable employment of voice actors as they “explore the new revenue opportunities” provided by AI. It will ensure performer consent and negotiation for uses of their digital voice double. It also gives performers the right to opt out of its continued use in new works.

“We are excited by the new opportunities this opens up for world-leading AAA studios who can now access the benefits of Replica’s AI voice technology while knowing that talent is recognised and compensated fairly for the use of their likeness,” said Shreyas Nivas, CEO of Replica Studios.

“Our voice actor agreements ensure that game developers using our platform are only accessing licensed talent who have given permission for their voice to be used as a training data set, as opposed to the wild west of AI platforms using unethical data-scraping methods to replicate and synthesise voices without permission.”

The Hollywood strikes were part of a labour dispute in the US entertainment industry organised by the Writers Guild of America and actors’ union SAG-AFTRA against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The writers’ strike ended in September after more than four months of organised activity when an agreement was reached that ensured that writers would get various benefits such as increased health and pension contributions, along with better compensation. The actors’ strike ended in November.

“Recent developments in AI technology have underscored the importance of protecting the rights of voice talent, particularly as game studios explore more efficient ways to create their games,” said SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

“With this agreement, we have achieved fully informed consent and fair compensation when it comes to the use of our members’ voices and performances.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic