Apple and Findaway hit pause on training machines with audiobooks, after union concerns

Man listening earbuds

Apple and Findaway Voices are reportedly halting the use of audiobooks as materials on which AI voices can be trained on.

A report from Wired published on Tuesday (14 February) states that members of SAG-AFTRA – which represents recording artists, actors and other creatives – received an email informing them that the two companies had agreed to halt the use of audiobook files “for machine learning purposes” – and this stoppage covers “all files dating back to the beginning of this practice.”

The publication further writes that Jane Love, SAG-AFTRA’s national director for audiobooks, confirmed that Apple’s access to Findaway’s files have been halted, and that the union was working with Findaway toward a solution that addressed concerns regarding “safe storage of the recordings and data, usage limitations, and appropriate compensation.”

Findaway is a leading audiobook distributor which provided Apple access to its files for the training of machine-learning and voice models. According to Wired, a clause in contracts between authors and the company gave Apple the right to use such files.

In June 2022, Findaway was acquired by Spotify, which announced it was entering the audiobook market just three months later.

Apple quietly released its first AI-voiced audiobook offerings last month, meeting the disapproval of professionals working in the field.

Speaking to Wired, Tim Friedlander, president of the US-based National Association of Voice Actors, dubbed the practice “literally taking the words out of our mouths without our consent.”

Meanwhile, Kansas City-based voice actor Andy Garcia-Ruse told the publication: “It feels like a violation to have our voices being used to train something for which the purpose is to take our place”.

Industry experts have indicated that the audiobook market could be worth over $35bn by 2030. Those same experts posit that the rising popularity of audiobooks could be owed to the stay-home measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The post Apple and Findaway hit pause on training machines with audiobooks, after union concerns appeared first on MusicTech.

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