AUTHOR: James MacLeod, Co-Founder and COO at BeyondWords
AI voices are becoming more prevalent. Advancements in text-to-speech mean publishers can create convincing voice clones — turn human recordings into virtual performers that deliver instantly, affordably, and at scale. This has opened the door to previously unviable formats, such as narrated news articles.
This means that there are new opportunities for voice actors. And those who don't adapt risk being left behind.
However, voice actors are understandably wary of getting involved. Not least due to high-profile cases of voice clone misuse, such as that of Bev Standing, whose recordings were used for TikTok's text-to-speech feature without her consent. And many know the story of Susan Bennett, who unwittingly became the voice of Siri — but didn't receive a penny of ongoing residuals.
The technology is relatively new, and industry standards have some catching up to do. As a result, AI voice actors are left to fend for themselves, and may unwittingly sign the dotted line on a bad deal. As Bev Standing's lawyer and voice actor Robert J. Sciglimpaglia wrote, failing to protect your voice clone is akin to committing career suicide.
This is where the Voice Cloning Contract comes in.
What is the Voice Cloning Contract?
The Voice Cloning Contract, or VCC, is an open legal template that empowers AI voice actors in the US or UK to license their voice on their terms.
It was created by BeyondWords in partnership with the Open Voice Network's Synthetic Voice Study Group, which includes Lotas Productions' own Jim Kennelly as well as voice actors Jodi Krangle and Adam Lofbomm.
The VCC encourages voice actors to license their clone across a limited term and only for specific purposes. This means performers can exclude projects that contradict their values or commercial interests. Performers can also use the contract to legally prevent the company from transferring their speech data or clone to third parties.
The company commissioning the clone is prompted to offer an upfront recording fee as well as ongoing royalties.
Jodi Krangle said: "The VCC represents a combined effort to address the concerns of both software companies and voice actors in a legal, ethical format. It's a win-win for both parties and I greatly appreciate BeyondWords' and the Open Voice Network's willingness to work with us. Synthetic voices are already here. We can bury our heads in the sand, or we can come up with ways for it to benefit everyone."
BeyondWords is currently piloting the VCC in collaboration with four voice actors: Jodi Krangle, Adam Lofbomm, Maria Pendolino, and Kate Marcin. They were paid to record a specialist script, and this speech data was used to train their voice models.
The resulting clones are available to eligible users through the BeyondWords platform, in accordance with the terms outlined in the actors' final contracts. The performers will receive royalties based on how much their AI voice is used. If adopted by one large-scale publisher, they stand to earn around $6,000 per year on top of the upfront fee.
Kate Marcin said:
"I decided to work with BeyondWords because I realized that it was inevitable that this technology would be developed and continue getting better. Rather than trying to fight the inevitable and be worried about my career as a voice actor, I wanted to work with a company that actually has voice actors' interests in mind and wants to work directly with us rather than stealing voices as I've heard some other companies have done."