Bev Standing Her Ground Against TikTok

(If ever there was a name that was ripe for a headline, it’s my friend’s name: Bev Standing. That’s a writer’s gift, right there.)

(L-R) Voice talents Glad Klassen, Peter K. O'Connell and Bev Standing

Voice talents Glad Klassen, Peter K. O’Connell and Bev Standing in 2018

Professional female voiceover talent Bev Standing is one of those voice talent friends where I cannot remember the exact time we met…it’s like she’s always been in my orbit. Part of that comes from her proximity to Buffalo, NY (where I used to live) and her home across the border in Welland, Ontario Canada. I was blessed to see her many times in our various VO meetups. She is a total pro, lovely to be around and work with and…certainly knows her stuff.

Anyway, Bev Standing is defending herself against what I consider a pretty egregious misuse of her voice files by the social media company TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance.

Bev, who in addition to being a VO also runs the VO Watercooler page on Facebook, did one text-to-speech voiceover project involving Chinese translations for the Institute of Acoustics, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in 2018.

More recently, though, her voice was being used by various videos on TikTok from that recording session. These additional uses, as I understand it, were not part of her agreement with the Institute of Acoustics. That kind of unauthorized use is actionable, so Bev lawyered up and filed suit recently in the US. District Court, Southern District of New York.

See, here might be another GREAT headline: the case might be known as ‘Standing vs TikTok’. These things practically write themselves!!

Text-to-speech, if you are unfamiliar, is a process where voice actors read a large script of sounds (think “-er”) and specific words that can be manipulated by computers into sentences that – in some cases – sound very much like a human voice, resulting in full human voice sentences.

The full story on this suit is much more completely reported by John Florian at Voice-Over Extra.

I had gotten wind of this problem some months ago but didn’t know until today that the suit had been filed. I think this is a very wise move on Bev Standing’s part…and brave, because such suits can be emotionally and financially draining. But it must be done.

Text-to-speech (TTS) jobs for voiceover talents became a very enticing proposition around the time Apple introduced us to Siri…the most famous TTS project since “Hal” into 2001 A Space Odyssey (except “Hal” wasn’t actually TTS).

But I’ve always been wary of TTS projects for the very reason Bev is bringing suit…reckless usage of entire voice files that can be close to impossible to contain once the files are released.

Basically, a voice talent is sharing their entire talent (their speaking voice) with a client for unlimited use – supposedly for a specific project. But if that entire file gets out to somebody else or is used for other purposes (for which the talent SHOULD be made aware of and compensated for) the talent has very few resources to stop that abuse.

It will be left to the courts to decide this – but if it sounds bad, looks bad and smells bad…it usually is bad. This sounds like TikTok has created a problem for itself that my friend Bev rightly aims to correct with her legal action.

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