Hi-Rez Studio president adjusts a contract rider for voice actors after being called out for potential AI use


If you’ve been on gaming Twitter anytime recently, you might have seen a thread started by voice actor Henry Schrader that was calling attention to a portion of a voice over contract from Hi-Rez Studios, which generally left the SMITE and Paladins developer free to use AI to complete vocal work in certain situations.

This part of the original talent contract rider stated that the Client (aka Hi-Rez) wouldn’t use “any synthesized or ‘digital double’ voice or likeness of Talent,” but later asserted the studio’s right to use a voice actor’s “performance or recording(s) or other digital representation(s) of the performances of Talent to produce new audio, images, and/or video of Talent’s voice and/or likeness […] in the event of Talent’s death or incapacity to perform at any foreseeable time.”

In his thread, Schrader argued that the contract granted Hi-Rez a loophole to use AI any time it wants:

“‘Incapacity that leaves talent unable to perform at any forseeable time’ is very open ended. If it were just the rights for after death, that would be one thing, but something like that could literally be used against talent for something like a bout with the flu or something. Eventually, what’s to stop them from using scheduling conflicts as an excuse? It’s cheaper and easier, right? Nobody can trust language like that.”

The attention that Schrader’s thread gained summoned forth Hi-Rez president Stewart Chisam to the melee of words, where he first tried to clap back at the thread’s suggestion as “a topic people want to spin up controversy for without proper research or any care for nuance,” but after he provided a full copy of the VO contract rider (which Schrader referenced himself about five hours after he started his thread), Chisam appeared to do an about-face after he attempted to defend his stance – even if it reads less like he’s protecting talent and more like he’s trying to avoid annoyance.

“When I was asked to approve the Rider, the death clause seemed reasonable to me (still does!) and I approved it. But it’s not really a clause I give a shit about and the circumstances under which we’d use it are incredibly narrow,” Chisam wrote about two hours after he he started his own thread. “I don’t want to have a lot of different versions of the Rider floating out there as that becomes difficult to keep track of who has what. So I’ve asked the lawyers to remove that part.”

As proof, he posted an updated image of the rider that has the referenced clause cut out entirely.

Whether this updated rider covers previously agreed-to contracts is still an open question with some professionals, and while some other replies thank Chisam for the turnaround, others are continuing to drag the initial decision. “You could have saved yourself a ton of grief and just said ‘We will only use human voice actors.’ How hard is that, really?” reads a reply from actress Kat Loveland. “No one cares if you use AI tools for cleaning audio. They care about you substituting a computer for a human. Simple.”

source: Twitter (1, 2), thanks to Bruno for the tip!
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