SAG-AFTRA Debuts New Waiver Covering Personalized, AI-Assisted Audio Ads

As Hollywood continues to adjust to the steady march of AI into the business, SAG-AFTRA has debuted a waiver for performers who are working on personalized audio commercials incorporating the technology.

The actors union’s “Dynamic AI Audio Commercials Waiver,” announced to members on Tuesday, seeks to manage how voice performances from union members are used and compensated in AI-assisted ads that change according to the specific listener or the context. (One example the union provided is if a commercial, say on a podcast, changes its greeting from “good morning” to “good afternoon” to “good night,” depending on the time of day.)

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The new agreement lays out a number of rules governing consent and compensation in these instances. Performers must be aware in advance that their voice work will be used to generate a digital voice replica and give written consent for that use, under the terms of the agreement. They must greenlight the use of this replica in a commercial, while knowing which products are set to be advertised. When any new commercial is produced using the voice replica, the performer needs to be paid according to the standards outlined in the waiver.

Moreover, “Producers must also commit to taking commercially reasonable steps to ensure the security of the digital voice double and the material used to create it, and to delete the digital voice replica and all materials used to create it when the employment relationship ends,” the union added in a Frequently Asked Questions document about the waiver.

The waiver was approved by the union’s Commercials Contracts Standing Committee and National Executive Committee before taking effect. The Joint Policy Committee — the group that represents advertisers and agencies in labor negotiations with unions — also provided input into the terms of the waiver, per SAG-AFTRA. (The Joint Policy Committee’s chief negotiator, Stacy Marcus, confirmed this was the case.)

The waiver is available only to signatories of the union’s Audio Commercials Contract, and so the union reminds members that if a company does not abide by the terms in the waiver, “Claims can be filed, and the employer can be pursued for proper compensation, penalties, and fees.”

In his announcement of the waiver, SAG-AFTRA national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told members that the agreement “furthers the union’s goal of ensuring that whenever A.I. is used in ways that impact SAG-AFTRA members, appropriate protections, informed consent and proper compensation are always required.”

The Dynamic A.I. Audio Commercials Waiver is the latest instance of SAG-AFTRA clearing the way for union members to participate in jobs where AI is being used. On Jan. 9, the union and voice technology company Replica Studios announced a voice agreement that covered the use of digital replicas in video games and other interactive media.

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