Two Voice Actors Take AI Startup LOVO to Court

lovo, ai startup, voice actors, theft, voice theft

Two voice actors have filed a class action lawsuit against AI startup LOVO for its illegal use of their voices.

  • The actors claim Lovo obtained their voice samples under false pretenses through the freelance marketplace Fiverr.
  • Lehrman and Sage found their voices used in various commercial applications, including YouTube videos and promotional materials.

Two voice actors are suing AI startup Lovo for unlawfully replicating their voices and incorporating them into its AI voiceover technology without their consent.

Paul Skye Lehrman and Linnea Sage are two actors with voices of gold. They have full careers under their belt. But their recent discoveries threatened the road ahead.

According to the New York Times article, last summer, the pair stumbled upon a podcast host talking to ‘Poe,’ a chatbot with Mr. Lehrman’s voice. No big deal, right? He’s a voice actor; it’s his job to give a voice to what’s voiceless. Except, that was not him. It sounded like him, but that was not him. In fact, an MIT professor had pieced the bot together and used voice synthesis technology from LOVO.

Deceptive Practices

LOVO, based in San Francisco, develops an AI voiceover and cloning platform. Through their web application and API, users generate realistic-sounding synthetic voices. The pair claim that the company obtained their voice samples under false pretenses through Fiverr, a freelancer marketplace. LOVO had allegedly assured them that their voices were for research or test purposes only. Only for the actors to find out that the startup used their voices in various commercial applications, including YouTube videos and promotional materials.

According to the class action complaint, the married couple claims that their “voices and/or identities were stolen and used by LOVO – to create millions of voice-over productions – without permission or proper compensation.”

Ever since we started talking about AI’s place in the creative world, we talked about art, writing, and acting. But we never truly appreciated what acting encompasses. Yes, acting includes voice acting. We heard AI-generated voices. They are super popular on TikTok. But did we stop to think about where these companies get their vocal data?

Many entities and people have taken it upon themselves to try to and regulate what AI companies use in the training process. But this instance is the first of its kind, as Jeffrey Bennett, general counsel for SAG-AFTRA, puts it. “This suit will show people — particularly technology companies — that there are rights that exist in your voice, that there is an entire group of people out there who make their living using their voice.”

It’s not like LOVO is using the recordings to produce a new voice. No, they were selling the voice itself, having it say a litany of things. The issue here is not even what the voice is saying—that’s a different can of worms. It’s the fact that these small samples that each of them submitted were enough for the company to manipulate the voice.

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