I recently listened to an episode of Radiolab which covered the advancements of voice editing and motion capture (MoCap).It appears that technology has advanced to the point where it is possible, using only forty minutes of someone’s dialogue, to create fictional conversation using their voice.
Moreover, visual technological advancement have also made it possible to superimpose an actor’s facial expressions and mouth movement, and apply these movements to a video recording of someone else. The most notable example is a ‘face over’ of one of Barack Obama’s weekly White House Press conferences (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmUC4m6w1wos).
The video game industry has long relied on voice actors and performance capture to create the narratives of a games’ campaign; cut scenes; playable characters etc. (notably Kevin Spacey in the COD: Advanced Warfare; or Last of Us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdEPZ1VaP6k).
Consequently, small UK game developers Ninja Games have found themselves at the forefront of real time MoCap, as seen in the following ‘Hellblade’ clip:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F86pGRwsCAI.
This technology, along with Adobe’s mysterious new VoCo. speech development software, has profound implications. VoCo enables a user, using only 40 minutes of voice recording, to create entirely new speech using someone’s voice, despite that person never having actually spoken those words. Take a look for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3l4XLZ59iw&t=1s.
The question then becomes ‘What rights does the actor retain over their image and voice when later used in game development or promotion, i.e. is the subsequent original content, created using their likeness and speech by real time MoCap and software such as VoCo, their property or the developer’s?
Who then becomes the author if applying Snow v Eaton Center to this case? Can video game actors be protected from detrimental modifications using an assertion of their moral rights? Can game developers and producers legally modify the images without restriction?
In a situation where fictional speech and MoCap is used to commit a tort, such as defamation, who is liable?
I am currently figuring out how this technology is going to impact the legal sphere, what do you guys think?