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SAG-AFTRA Ratifies Contracts That Limit Use of AI Voices in Animated TV Shows

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SAG-AFTRA announced Friday that members have ratified new three-year contracts for voice actors who work on animated TV shows.

The deals addressed the same concerns that fueled last year’s 118-day actors’ strike, notably artificial intelligence, which many actors fear will replace their jobs.

As with the live-action agreement, the animation deals do not forbid the use of AI. But they do prevent actors’ voices from being recreated without their permission.

Though the animation terms are largely patterned on the deal that ended the strike, there are a couple of differences. SAG-AFTRA negotiated for language declaring that animation voice actors must be human beings — a definition that was not included in the TV/Theatrical deal.

“We’ve got it in writing,” the union stated on X, formerly known as Twitter, earlier this month. “‘Voice actors’ includes ONLY humans in the new TV Animation Agreements!”

The lack of that definition in the TV/Theatrical agreement was a source of controversy during the ratification process. At the time, executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s top negotiator, argued that defining actors as human beings would not be an effective protection against AI misuse.

“What you need is actual protection against what these companies might do,” he said last fall. “Not something that just sounds great, but doesn’t actually protect you.”

As with the TV/Theatrical deal, the animation agreements provide for consent and compensation for the use of “digital replicas” to recreate an actor’s voice. The deal does not prevent studios from training AI models on past performances to create a “synthetic” voice — unless that voice sounds like an actual voice actor or their character.

A studio would also have to get an actor’s consent to use their name in a prompt to create a synthetic voice. The deal also requires that the studios give the union notice every time they create a synthetic voice. And the union will have the opportunity to argue that actors deserve payment for their contribution even if the end result not sound like them.

The deals generally follow the pattern set by the TV/Theatrical agreement in other respects, with 7% increases in scale wages retroactive to July 1, followed by increases of 4% and 3.5% in the subsequent years of the contract.

The animation agreements also include the same “success bonus” for the most-watched shows on streaming.

The agreements were ratified with 95.5% support — significantly higher than the 78% approval for the TV/Theatrical deal in December.