As I wrote in 2021, taking steps to remove the human voice and replace it with a synthesized one destroys the art form.
I certainly do not want or intend to participate in any attempt to create artificial voices meant to replace human narrators.
However, I unknowingly may have done that very thing by choosing to distribute audiobooks through FindawayVoices.com. Today, I took action to revoke Findaway’s license to Apple to use my audiobooks for machine learning.
In recent days, people on Facebook have shared this clause in Schedule D of the rights holder’s Distribution Agreement from FindawayVoices.com:
Rights Holder grants Apple a limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable, non-sublicensable right and license to use Digital Audio Products files for machine learning training and models, provided that in no event shall any Rights Holder Digital Audio Products or portion thereof be provided to any third party or end-user in contravention of this Digital Distribution Agreement (e.g. making Rights Holder content available for free to end-users without express written consent). Rights Holder may revoke this right and license by sending Notice to Findaway as outlined in Section 11.
Section 11 states:
All notices required under this Agreement shall be sent by email to email@example.com.
I’m a rights holder on Findaway. I sent the email below to FindawayVoices as my Notice. Feel free to use it as a template, though in retrospect, I’d change the subject to be Revoke license for Apple machine learning. I also should have added that my revocation applies to any future similar license with another company. Not surprisingly, the auto-reply message stated they are “experiencing higher than average email volume.”
Subject: Revoke use of Apple machine learning
Hello. I am disgusted to learn that Findaway at some point added language to Schedule D of the Distribution Agreement which allows Apple to use my audio for machine learning.
Per Item 11 of the Agreement, I revoke that right and license forever for all of my audiobooks.
Please send confirmation of this request, as well as confirmation from Apple that my files will not be used in this manner.
Looking at my copies of past Distribution Agreements, I see that this clause has been in place since at least March 2020.
It’s unfortunate that Findaway’s lawyers banked on the fact that most people would not see or understand this treacherous clause in the Agreement.
For a company that proudly proclaims “We Love Narrators” on the home page of FindawayVoices.com, this clause makes it seem that the company loves big money more.
In addition to the royalty break-down listed in the Agreement, Findaway should be transparent about the amount of money that Apple is paying for the right to use your clients’ audio to create synthetic voices that could take the jobs of the narrators Findaway “loves”.
Thank you for your attention and immediate action.
After receiving numerous questions and comments from other narrators, I’ve edited this post to clarify that the “Machine Learning” language only appears in the rights holder’s Distribution Agreement.
I’ve narrated and self-produced a number of books that I distributed through Findaway as the rights holder. I couldn’t find a link to the current Distribution Agreement on the web. It’s contained in my Rights Holder Dashboard.
Narrators sign away our interest in the recording at the point we contracted with a rights holder. You should ensure that your contract specifically states that your voice may not be used without your permission for machine learning or any other purpose not explicitly stated in the contract.
You can send the email to Findaway. However, I imagine they would tell you to contact the rights holder(s) of books you’ve narrated to revoke their sub-license to Apple.
I would argue that the RH doesn’t have the right to sub-license MY VOICE to Apple or anyone for machine learning or anything else. Unfortunately, this particular horse at Findaway has been out of the barn for a while.
The Findaway Voices Distribution Agreement doesn’t reference other Findaway/Spotify divisions. In fact, Spotify is only mentioned one time — in the table showing the royalty rates from each site.
FindawayVoices updates this Agreement when they add or drop distribution channels/partners, so I hadn’t been looking closely at each change. I don’t remember seeing emails from Findaway that itemized each difference. I seem to recall being forced to re-sign the Distribution Agreement before I could see my FV Dashboard.
Schedule D “Digital Audio Product Program Policies” talks about the types of programs they accept and starts with these 2 paragraphs:
Rights Holder acknowledges and agrees to adhere to Digital Audio Product Program Policies. Findaway may change the Digital Audio Product Program Policies at its discretion from time to time with notice to the Rights Holder.
Our content policies play an important role in ensuring a positive experience for both our users and publishing partners. Please join us in this effort by respecting these guidelines. We may make exceptions to these policies based on artistic, educational, historical, documentary, or scientific considerations, or where there are other substantial benefits to the public.
The paragraph about the sub-license to Apple for Machine Learning was strangely added at the end of Schedule D, right after paragraphs about prohibitions on Hate Speech and permissible and non-permissible Sexually Explicit content.
Actually, from a lawyer’s perspective, that’s probably a perfect hiding spot.
Alex Picard says
Karen, do you know narrators can make this request? Or only rights holders?
Karen Commins says
Hi, Alex. Thanks for the good question.
Narrators unfortunately don’t have any say in the matter. The language is only in the Distribution Agreement for rights holders.
The Production Agreement that narrators sign states under Item 7 Ownership:
If you’ve done books for a RH who distributed through Findaway, you’d want to ask them the rescind that license to Apple.
Suzanne Barbetta says
Karen – I just looked over my agreement as a narrator on a Marketplace Union PFH contract for them last spring and it doesn’t allude to this at all. I will reach out to my authors but I am wondering since there are still many authors on Twitter if it should not also be post there instead of only on LinkedIn? I am gong to try to track down my Australian author since she did direct distribution… Thank you for the letter above.
Karen Commins says
Hi, Suzanne. I updated the post to indicate that the language is only in the rights holder’s Distribution Agreement. The rights holder is the only one who can revoke the sub-license right.
When I publish an article, it automatically posts to Twitter and LinkedIn. The software is supposed to also share the article on my FB business page. That usually doesn’t happen, so I manually add it there.
My blog articles also are sent to my email list the next day to either narrators or authors, depending on the subject. This one will go out to both groups.
I hope this info helps.
Cath Bilson says
This is genuinely outrageous because I don’t believe that Rights Holders actually HAVE the right to assign narrators’ voices to be used for Machine Learning (unless they are also the narrator). Any chance of SAG-AFTRA getting involved?
Karen Commins says
Hi, Cath. While I agree with you, you’ll have to refer the question about SAG/AFTRA to the union reps.
Ella Lynch says
Thank you so much for sharing this Karen. I am absolutelt appalled and disgusted. Despite not being a rights holder, I have used your email template any way, in the hopes it has some effect. And I am now going to reach out to all my authors about it too.
Thomas Nance says
Thank you, Karen. I used your template to revoke the permissions for Apple to use my fiels for AI voice construction.
Ian Russell says
Thank you for bringing this to the communities attention. It feels like a backdoor. Automatically passing a license relating to our voice data to Apple via the Rights Holders agreement
Maggie Foster says
It seems to me that the person holding the rights to the audio file should get the money being paid my Apple to use that file for machine learning.
Karen Commins says
Hi, Maggie. Thanks for your perspective.
The person holding the rights to the audio does not have the legal right to use the performers’ voices for anything other than the distribution of the audiobook unless the performer specifically agreed to it in the contract.
As a result of the publicity over the clause in the Findaway Distribution Agreement, reps from SAG/AFTRA met with Findaway and Apple. Both companies agreed to halt the use of any and all files for machine learning, retroactive to the beginning of the practice.
To my knowledge, compensation for any files previously used was not discussed. However, if any amount is ever paid, it should flow to the person who owns the voice, not the recording.
Stina Nielsen says
Bravo! Thank you for your statement & for publicizing this!👏👏👏👏👏
Thank you, Karen! ♥ ♥ ♥