SAG-AFTRA Members Approve New TV Animation Contract by 95%

The new deal includes protections against AI and a pay raise backdated to July 2023

x-men-97-marvel-animation
Jubilee (voiced by Holly Chou) [left], Morph (voiced by JP Karliak), Wolverine (voiced by Cal Dodd), Storm (voiced by Alison Sealy-Smith), Cyclops (voiced by Ray Chase), Rogue (voiced by Lenore Zann), Jean Grey (voiced by Jennifer Hale), Gambit (voiced by AJ LaCascio), Bishop (voiced by Isaac Robinson-Smith), and Beast (voiced by George Buza) in Marvel Animation's "X-Men '97." (Marvel Animation)

SAG-AFTRA members voted overwhelmingly to approve a new TV animation contract, the guild announced Friday.

The new animation voice acting agreement was ratified by 95.52%, the guild said. Total voter turnout was not revealed.

The new contract includes a 7% raise, backdated to July 1, 2023, as well as protections against so-called “artificial intelligence” software, according to the guild.

According to a summary published Friday by SAG-AFTRA, the AI provisions define the term “voice acting” as only pertaining to human beings. While the deal doesn’t forbid the use of AI to replicate human voices, the recognizability requirement that applies to performers’ rights has been adjusted to account for the fact voice actors often use voices unlike their own, the guild said.

Among those adjustments, the digital replica must “be readily identifiable and attributable to the voice actor through contracts or other regular business records, and it doesn’t have to sound like the actor “as long as it can be shown that the digital replica was made” using the voice.

In addition, for “Independently Created” digital replicas, the replica doesn’t have to sound like the actor if it sounds like the character’s voice. In addition, actors will be entitled to “all applicable residuals” if an actor’s voice is digitally altered into another language and exhibited.

Further, if an actor’s only performance in an animated program is a digital replica, their residuals will be calculated based on how much the actor was paid and how much time the actor performed the work that was replicated.

Studios also agreed not to refer to so-called “synthetic performers in a human role,” and refer to them only as a “synthetic voice.” If studios use a performer name or multiple names to create a synthetic voice using generative chat tools, they must receive consent first. The AI provisions also “specifically acknowledges the importance of ‘voice acting’ as part of acknowledging the role of ‘human performance,’” and mandates “semi-annual” meetings to address tracking of digital replicas.

The new contract also makes changes to high budget SVOD residuals, residuals for ad-supported SVOD, improvements to how voice actors are classified for ADR work, mandated sheet music if actors are required to sing, and formal recognition of Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Jr. day as holidays.

“The foundation of this agreement was based on the feedback we got from members who work these contracts, and that remained the negotiating committee’s focus throughout bargaining. We are proud to have delivered an agreement that offers big wins in those areas,” TV animation negotiating committee cochairs Bob Bergen and David Jolliffe said in a joint statement. “This is the first SAG-AFTRA animation voiceover contract with protections against the misuse of artificial intelligence.”

“This contract represents a meaningful step forward in expanding our A.I. protections,” SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland added. “The contract provides important new terms in the areas of foreign residuals, high-budget SVOD productions, late payments and much more. I am gratified we were able to achieve these significant gains without the need for a work stoppage, and want to express my appreciation to our outstanding negotiating committee chairs and members, as well as lead negotiator Ray Rodriguez and the dedicated negotiating staff.”

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