TikTok, Text-To-Speech, and the VO Community

A discussion on the emergence of text-to-speech software in light of the lawsuit against TikTok

The first thing my wife said when I told her about Bev Standing and her lawsuit against TikTok was “That sounds like The Little Mermaid!” and then commenced with the singing of Ariel’s famous, haunting melody.

At full volume.

At least she has a decent voice?

In case you haven’t heard yet, here’s the basics of what’s happening (originally reported by The Telegraph):

What is text-to-speech?

Here is a description from Business Insider (Click to see article):

  • “Text-to-speech (TTS) is a popular feature that lets your computer or phone read text aloud to you.”
  • “Text-to-speech is commonly used as an accessibility feature to help people who have trouble reading on-screen text, but it’s also convenient for those who want to be read to.”
  • “You can find text-to-speech features in many places today, including ebook readers, word processors, internet browsers, and more.” 

So basically, it’s very convenient for many people (abled or disabled) and grants access to information for people who might be otherwise hindered. Access to information is crucial for our continued growth as a society, but let’s save that conversation for another blog.

BUT.

To use another human’s voice without their express written consent is a

Big

FAT

NO NO

Why?

Because as a voice actor, your voice is your product. Your livelihood. It is something unique–that makes you YOU.

“The Canada-based actor told the BBC that she didn’t give consent for those recordings to be reused or resold to any other entity. “My voice is my product – it’s my business,” she said. “You can’t just use it and not reimburse me for what I do. If you want to use someone’s voice, pay for it,” she said.” – The Independent

Taking something that does not belong to you is theft, plain and simple. It does not matter what the product is: tangible or intangible, physical property or intellectual. If you made it, it is yours.

There was a time a few years ago where an educational company that I had never heard of before contacted me to do a similar job as Bev was asked. Some flags started to go off in my head but I looked into it anyway because…well, money!

I accepted the job and did a little recording for them, but it wasn’t long before some red flags went up in my head. It was merely a gut feeling, but I ended up cancelling the contract anyway. The lack of response to my letter of resignation in effect confirmed that the red flags were legit.

Looking back now, I think I dodged a bullet.

So, to any newbie voice artists out there: money is awesome and it’s so easy to just accept everything that comes your way, but if I can offer any advice, let it be this: do your research and practice discernment.

You got this.

And to Bev, I am so sorry this happened and I #standwith you.

Best,

Rob

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