Voiceover Actors Sue AI Startup Lovo for Stealing Their Voices ‘Without Permission or Proper Compensation’

Plaintiffs are seeking $5 million in damages in the class-action suit

AI Artificial Intelligence
(Getty, Christopher Smith/TheWrap)

Two voice actors are leading a class-action lawsuit against AI voiceover company Lovo for using recordings of them to create a bot that replicates their voices — and competes with them for work.

Paul Lehrman and Linnea Sage’s class-action lawsuit states that Lovo tricked them into sending voice samples, which the company used to then start selling AI versions of their voices. The pair accuse Lovo of fraud, false advertising and violating their publicity rights. They are seeking damages of $5 million.

According to the lawsuit, Lehrman and Sage were initially contacted through Fiverr to provide work for anonymous clients, ranging from research projects to radio ad test scripts.

In a discussion with the New York Times, the pair first found out about their predicament while listening to a podcast covering the rise of AI and its threat against working actors. Lehrman was shocked when a portion of the discussion included an interview with an AI bot — and that bot had his voice. Lehrman also found his voice being used in YouTube videos discussing the war in Ukraine.

For Sage, the shock came when she stumbled upon a 2020 video of Lovo showing off its voice tech to investors. That video featured a segment comparing Sage’s real voice to the AI recreation of it, but used a photo of a woman that wasn’t her.

Lovo has also implemented a number of voices that are clear rips of numerous celebrities, including “Barack Yo Mama,” “Elton John Cena” and “Cocoon O’Brien.”

“Those AI tools that are intended to expand creativity and augment human participation have the ability to be used in a positive and productive way,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director of SAG-AFTRA, told TheWrap in an email. “The real question with regard to AI is to what extent it will be used to replace human creativity — which is where it becomes particularly problematic.”

Despite Lehrman and Sage joining the growing number of actors concerned about AI and how it’s being implemented, some in Hollywood are actually embracing the tech – when their voices aren’t being stolen.

“We should be championing these tools to empower human and human stories or humanity and human storytelling, as opposed to siloing it toward… automating the movie-making process,” Sam Lawton, the winner of 2023’s inaugural AI Film Festival, told TheWrap.

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