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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE PROJECTS
The Final Act: Bev Standing's TikTok Lawsuit
Ends With Voice Over Lessons Learned And Gift
December 15, 2021

By John Florian
VoiceOverXtra

It could be a holiday movie with a Hallmark cheery ending: Discovery of an injustice ... a struggle to right a wrong ... a community rallies with support and money ... then resolution, lessons learned, and a pay-it-forward gift.

Except, it's the scenario for what actually did happen this year. And you already know much of the story - but not all.

Earlier this year, voice actor Bev Standing (pictured) discovered that her voice was being used without her prior knowledge or permission by social media giant TikTok's text-to-speech feature. Then:
  • With the help of attorney/voice actor Rob Sciglimpaglia, Standing sued TikTok.
  • The voice over community rallied in support on social media.
  • Voice actor Maria Pendolino started a GoFundMe campaign to defray Standing's legal costs, eventually raising more than $7,200.
  • The voice over community learned from Standing's experience about the potential dangers of voicing projects in the AI (artificial intelligence) genre - plus practical advice.
  • And a few months ago, the suit was settled as parties reached an "amicable agreement."
See: Voice Actor Bev Standing Sues TikTok
See: Voice Over Community Rallies To Support
See: Bev Standing Settles Lawsuit With TikTok

A cheery holiday ending, yes. But there's more.

Standing is donating all money received in the GoFundMe campaign to the Brad Venable Grant (www.bebrad.com), which was initially created in January 2021 as the Brad Venable Coaching Scholarship in memory of popular voice actor Brad Venable to benefit Brad's widow. Now, fund organizer/voice actor Tim Friedlander and Standing have collaborated to expand the fund's purpose to also help voice actors.

"We are setting up a 501(3)c to handle the fund going forward, and once that is finalized we will have more info on where the grants will be offered," Friedlander explains. (See more on the plan below).

Sciglimpaglia is donating to the Brad Venable Grant, too.

THE REST OF THE STORY ...

VoiceOverXtra asked Standing and Sciglimpaglia to fill us in ...

Bev, how much was donated to the GoFundMe account, and where is that money now?

I have donated the entire amount of the GoFundMe account, which was $7,289.56 USD, to the Brad Venable Grant, and I can't thank enough, all those who donated. It was encouraging to know I had that support.

I would like to thank Maria Pendolino for creating the GoFundMe. I didn't want to do it at first, as I felt it was my battle and my battle alone. 

But I was told "people just want to help" so I agreed, with the intention of donating if it was not needed.

Why was this money not used to cover your legal expenses?

I had planned to use this money if I had out-of-pocket expenses for travel, hotel and court/legal expenses, but we were able to come to an agreement without that being necessary. The only thing it cost me was time - lots and lots of time. 

Why did you choose this grant fund for your donation?

Brad was one of the kindest VO people I knew. He stood up for what was right, and that's what I was doing. When Brad passed last year from COVID 19 I wanted to continue with that same thought in mind, "to help."

The folks who contributed to my GoFundMe account did so to help. So it just made sense.

Tim Friedlander (who created the scholarship fund) and I had a long conversation about the fund's future. We talked about it being allocated in smaller amounts, i.e. $500, to voice over conference organizers to issue to individuals in attendance who need help in some way. That way, the money would reach more people in the industry. The conference organizers can decide the parameters of the giveaway, which gives more people a voice in how and who to help.

Can you tell us anything about the settlement with TikTok?

Nope! Other than to say that we came to an amicable agreement. I had thoughts of long drawn-out battles, but it wasn't like that at all. It was a conversation and an agreeable solution.

How do you feel after this entire experience, and what have you learned? 

I'm exhausted!

It didn't take the wind out of my sail, but it did wear me down a bit. 

I had a few meltdowns. But I just kept picturing the voice over community, on both sides of the glass - talent, casting, directors, engineers, agents - supporting me, having my back, and that kept me going.  

A lot of people reached out with very kind comments.

And what did I learn? 

Contracts are important - which I knew, but times are changing. So it's even more important now to protect the licensing of your voice and to understand what you are signing. Especially if you are non-union and don't have a union backing you.

AI is here to stay, like it or not, so it's vital to understand where the industry is going.

Thanks, Bev.

And now, Rob. What was the experience like to sue TikTok on Bev's behalf? Are you surprised at how fast the suit was settled?

It was for me, business as usual, except the case was brought in Federal Court and I usually start my cases in State Court. 

I was not surprised, but more relieved, by how nice the attorney was for TikTok. It can go either way sometimes, where you might get someone who is just acting like a jerk, to put it lightly. 

I am not really surprised the case settled quickly because Bev had a strong case under copyright infringement, in my opinion.

Can you tell us anything about the settlement?

I can tell you that TikTok admitted that Bev's voice was indeed the voice of their text-to-speech feature, and that the parties amicably resolved the matter. I can also say that my investigation showed TikTok didn't do anything intentional in using Bev's voice files.

I understand that you are also donating to the Brad Venable Grant. Why? Can you tell us how much?

That is correct. I don't know anyone who knew Brad who did not love Brad. I was so pleased when Bev told me that if we did not use the GoFundMe funds raised for this case that she wanted them donated to this grant. 

I had incurred $1,300 or so in costs in Bev's case, but rather than collecting them I am donating them to the fund.  

What the lesson in all this for voice actors?

The gigantic lessons to be learned are to always know a project's intended usage and to PUT THE USAGE IN WRITING! 

And whenever possible, keep OWNERSHIP of the sound recordings that you produce in your studio so they can be copyrighted - and then license the use of those files back to the client. 

If you see contract terms like "in perpetuity" or "use in all media" - or if the contract says the "files can be sold or transferred to third parties" - it should raise a huge red flag.

What else?

Remember that these items are for non-union projects. 

For union projects, a voice artist has their union to protect them, which is one of the advantages of being a part of the union. 

Also, for non-union projects, don't automatically assume that your agent will protect you from these things. Knowledgeable agents who have been in the business a while will protect you, but I have seen examples of inexperienced agents giving away these rights. 

With new agencies popping up as quickly as new talent, this needs to be kept in mind. 

The only one who can protect you is you, so be sure to stay on top of the business and legal issues that continuously arise as the industry quickly evolves.

Thanks, Rob.

So is this really THE END? Not quite. Coming soon is a sequel from VO / attorney Rob Sciglimpaglia on a new wave of AI projects in which companies treat voice over professionals ethically.

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Comments (2)
Lori Furth
12/16/2021 at 8:28 PM
Congratulations! I'm so glad Robert was able to get Bev a fair settlement. And Bev, what a magnanimous move to expand on Brad's legacy with this generous contribution. We are all stronger because of you!

John, thanks for highlighting this important case.
Elizabeth J Holmes
12/15/2021 at 9:13 PM
Bev & Rob --
GREAT job, Guys!! Thank you, on behalf of ALL of us, for fighting the good fight and keeping Brad's legacy alive. You're real-life Super Heroes!
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