Have you read the voices dot com Terms of Service lately? They were updated on April 24th.
Take a close look at part of number 14. It’s a classic that didn’t get refreshed. If you’re an auditory person like I am, you will probably want to listen to this.
That’s why I asked my friend Ana to record it for you:
That’s a lot of legalese, so here’s the text:
“Each User grants to Voices (and any third party authorized by Voices) an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, unrestricted, fully paid up, royalty free, non-exclusive right and license to reproduce, copy, publish, perform in public, communicate to the public by telecommunication, disseminate, optimize (including search engine optimization), synchronize with other content and materials, edit, translate, transcribe, close caption and otherwise store, use and process all User Generated Content (in whole or in part, as is or as may be edited) and any materials based upon or derived therefrom for the purpose of providing the Services, promoting Voices, its services and the Site. User hereby waives all moral rights (and all other rights of a like or similar nature) that User may have in the User Generated Content in favor of Voices (and any third party authorized by Voices to use such User Generated Content).”
Now, someone who knows more about this than I do, told me that VDC has to put these terms in place in order for them to legally share your demos and auditions with their clients. I’m not a lawyer, but I do wonder why -if this is necessary- this permission is so broad and all-encompassing.
Well, it’s no mystery why VDC has been listing this for years. They want to own a slice of you! And if you’re telling me you never gave permission to VDC to use your voice in any way they seem fit, read the second paragraph of their Terms of Service:
“By clicking “AGREE”, or by otherwise agreeing to these terms of service or to a Services Agreement, or by otherwise using the services, each User (as defined below) agrees with Voices to be bound by these terms of service (the “Terms of Service” or “Agreement”).”
All it takes is one click.
Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!
THE LAUNCH OF A NEW AI PLATFORM
In other news:
“A recent poll of VDC customers found that 40% have used AI voices in the past, and another 60% said they would consider doing so in the future.”
If I’m reading this correctly, VDC stipulates that 100% of its clients is not opposed to using AI-generated voices. VDC goes on:
“Further, Voices has experienced a surge in voice over jobs in the voice assistant category, seeing an increase of 440% year-over-year.”
VDC CEO David Ciccarelli said:
“While there will always be a place for voice actors who bring their unique interpretation to a script and create character voices, there are many applications that don’t require artistic interpretation. These applications, traditionally known as industrials, are a perfect fit for synthetic voices, more commonly referred to as AI voices.”
“The reality is that many applications would benefit from AI generated voices in real-time rather than rely on recordings done by voice talent.”
To which Armin Hierstetter, the founder of Bodalgo, said:
“There you go: The talents on VDC not only financed their replacement, they probably trained it to a certain point.”
Frankly, I don’t know where these artificial voices at VOICES AI come from. The platform has yet to launch, so the website doesn’t offer any insights. But we all know that the big players in text-to-speech applications base their synthetic voices off of real human voices. And since you have agreed to VDC’s Terms of Service, why wouldn’t they use your voice? They don’t need your permission. In fact, you may be paying them $499 a year for that privilege!
Now, for the sake of allowing both sides to have a say in this discussion, let me show you an exchange on Facebook that involves the CEO of VDC, David Ciccarelli. Before you read it, here’s a screenshot of the opening paragraph of VDC’s terms of service. Notice when it was last updated.
Now on to the Facebook exchange which took place on 4/25. Ciccarelli addresses Terry Daniel, moderator of the Voiceover Pros FB group.
A CHANGE IS COMING
Two weeks after I published this story, Toby Rickets interviewed Ciccarelli for his podcast VOLIFE, and asked the VDC CEO about changing the Terms of Service. First, Ciccarelli confirmed that his company needs to take legal ownership of all the audio on his site to go after non-paying clients “on behalf of the talent.” Rickets then asked Ciccarelli:
“Why can’t you incorporate in the Terms of Service that you won’t use the voices on VDC for AI purposes? That would put people’s minds at ease.” And Ciccarelli said this:
“You know, the short answer is yeah, we’re going to, and I think that’s when we realized that it was maybe an omission through realizing that technology has developed that quickly. That this is needed, and it’s why we co-create with the talent community, and so we have some terminology with the lawyers right now. I was hoping that I could get it -if you will- approved prior to this podcast. It’s the section that does not permit Voices to “make or train derivative works, such as synthetic voices or more commonly know as AI voices or any user-generated content without the express consent of said user, i.e. the talent.”
He repeated that he’s never created an AI voice from a demo, from an audition, or a finished product because that’s owned by the client. He said: “If there’s concern that we’re doing this, I’d rather dispel the concern and put it in writing. It’s the legally binding agreement what the community wants, and I’m happy to oblige.”
BTW, I am writing this update on May 4th, 2023, and the VDC Terms of Service have not been updated yet to reflect Ciccarelli’s promise. I highly recommend you watch the entire interview because it covers a lot of ground and Rickets is a very level-headed and intelligent interviewer.
Anyway, as I was reading the updated Terms of Service, I found another gem under 12. Job Agreements – Relationships to Voices:
“(b) Client acknowledges that Voices does not independently evaluate, investigate, or otherwise conduct any due diligence regarding Talent, their resumes, portfolios, qualifications, skills, background, or prior experience. Voices makes no representations or warranties to Client concerning Talent, including as to the reliability, capability, background, identity or qualifications of any Talent. Talent Content posted on the Site is provided by Voices on an “as is” basis without any warranty by Voices.”
This confirms what we’ve known all along: VDC doesn’t care about quality or professionalism. They’ll take anyone with a credit card and a pulse. Compare that to a site like Bodalgo where talent is actually vetted. How’s this for a warning?
Voices dot com gives itself permission to use anything their talent uploads without any compensation, but should things go wrong, they take no responsibility whatsoever.
“(d) Client and Talent agree that Voices has no responsibility for any disputes or issues that arise between Client and Talent. The resolution of all disputes and claims between Client and Talent concerning the performance of, and payment for, any Job Services and a Job Agreement, including with respect to any enforcement, breach, terms, conditions, warranties and representations associated with the Job Services and a Job Agreement is solely between Client and Talent.”
How’s that for a site that says it stands behind the talent it represents? Remember: without voices, there wouldn’t be a voices dot com.
A FOR-PROFIT BUSINESS
One last thing on the matter.
David Ciccarelli has every right to run his business the way he seems fit. He’s a smart businessman who sees that his clients are turning to AI-generated voices, and that has to cut into his bottom line. He is looking for a solution to that problem. VOICES AI is that solution.
Just as Ciccarelli is looking for a response to a changing market, we as voice talents also have to react and make sure there’s a future for us. All of us will have to up our game so we can compete with the machines and the software and the algorithms. As AI voices are getting better, we have to get better as well.
Back to the very beginning of this story. If you haven’t done so already, please take a minute to listen to Ana reading part of VDC’s Terms of Service.
Before you start complimenting her on how well and accurately this young girl read VDC’s Terms of Service, don’t bother.
Ana’s not real.
I found her voice on naturalreaders dot com.