Voice Actor Sues TikTok for Generating Text-to-Speech Voice From Her Recordings Without Permission
Voice actor Beverly Standing is suing TikTok parent company ByteDance E-Commerce for using her voice without permission. Standing claims the synthetic voice used for the text-to-speech feature TikTok introduced last year, comes from recordings she made as part of a job several years ago. The feature is immensely popular both for improving accessibility to TikTok and as a fun way to enhance the videos and could cost TikTok a staggering amount of money should Standing win the case and be recompensed as requested in her suit.
After a user makes films a video for TikTok, they can add text to the screen, then pick out a voice from a shortlist to read the text out loud whenever the video plays. Standing claims in her suit that the voice, specifically, the female voice with a North American accent, is hers. The story described in the suit indicates Standing was unaware of the plans for the text-to-speech feature until it debuted in December. What apparently happened, is that she completed a contract with the Institute of Acoustics to do voice work and those files were sold to TikTok and used to make the synthetic voice even though her contract did not include allowing her voice to be repurposed.
“Plaintiff was not compensated for the use of her voice and likeness and never gave permission for Defendant to use her voice and likeness to Defendant,” the suit states. “Defendants have unlawfully used Plaintiff’s voice and likeness in connection with the services of TikTokresulting in irreparable harm to Plaintiff.”
As Standing is a professional voice performer working in industrial, commercial, and entertainment, millions of people thinking of her voice mainly as the one used in TikTok videos is problematic, especially if the voice is used for less than PG purposes. The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District Court of New York asks the court to force TikTok to remove her voice from the platform and delete the file it came from. She is also asking the judge for $150,000 in damages for every copyright infringement. The frequent use of the text-to-speech voice service would turn that into a mind-boggling amount of money to win should a judge agree to make the company pay that sum.
To understand a bit more of why Standing is seeking to shut down the digital voice clone, my puppy Cabbage stands in for a lawyer, with part of the lawsuit performed using the synthetic voice Standing is suing over in the TikTok below. And to show it certainly sounds like her voice, there’s a brief video Standing provided the voiceover for you can listen to here. You can read the whole lawsuit here. We’ve reached out TikTok for comment and will update as we learn more.
Plaintiff was not compensated for the use of her voice & likeness & never gave permission for Defendant to use her voice & likeness.