Voice actress Erica Lindbeck returned to Twitter on July 15 with a meme of startled Shaggy from Scooby Doo. Lindbeck previously left the platform following backlash for her involvement in taking down an AI voiceover video.
AI singing videos have become a trend where users can feed voice clips into an AI software and it will dub over songs. Voice actors are particularly vulnerable to this because the surplus of audio is easy to feed into the software. An example of AI singing videos would be the character Plankton from “Spongebob Squarepants” singing Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” or a B1 Battle Droid from “Star Wars” singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
Lindbeck, known for her role as Loona in “Helluva Boss” and Black Cat in 2018’s Spider-Man video game, publicly asked an AI voice creator who goes by the screen name TheMusicalCreeper to remove a video. Lindbeck voiced the character Futaba Sakura in 2016’s Persona 5. In the game’s story, Futaba is a shut-in NEET who spends her days browsing the web, hacking, and speaking in internet memes. TheMusicalCreeper took a sample of Lindbeck’s performance and dubbed it over the song “Welcome to the Internet” from Bo Burnham’s “Inside.”
After seeing the video, Lindbeck asked the creator to remove the video and made a post asking her fans to report videos that used her voice in a way that she did not consent to. Fans of Lindbeck believe that AI voices pose a threat to voice actors, whose voices are how they make a living.
TheMusicalCreeper responded by accusing Lindbeck of starting a campaign of harassment over a “harmless” AI video. Fans of AI believe that AI technology should not be held back by voice actors whose voices are being used, and that Lindbeck is being dramatic.
As the two sides clashed, Lindbeck stepped back from Twitter and TheMusicalCreeper took down all the videos on their channel. This includes the Futaba cover, though it has been reuploaded by fans.
Following the controversy, other VAs stepped forward to support Lindbeck.
Josh Keaton, who played Peter Parker in “The Spectacular Spider-Man” cartoon, replied to TheMusicalCreeper by writing “People rightfully calling you out for stealing someone’s voice is not a harassment campaign… Erica is a wonderful person and doesn’t deserve any of this.”
“As an actor, and as a human being, I don’t typically have issues with advancements in technology.” stated a tweet from Elizabeth Maxwell, who voices both Urbosa and Riju in The Legend of Zelda series, “What I have an issue with is that we rarely seem to make corresponding advancements in morality.”
Xander Mobus, who worked with Lindbeck on Persona 5 and also voices the announcer in the Super Smash Bros. series, wrote “Respect people’s boundaries and understand it’s weird and creep having someone use you as a puppet to say whatever they want you to. And y’all owe Erica an apology. She’s good people. She didn’t deserve this.”
Erica Lindbeck’s return post was received with well wishes and celebrations from her fans and fellow VAs.
As of this writing, Lindbeck hasn’t posted anything else. Her return has reignited discussion about the ethics of using AI voices of existing characters, recognizing that there are real people behind those characters. While AI voices aren’t going away, this situation is a reminder that AI continues to be a real problem for voice actors who feel as though their livelihoods could be at stake.