Erica Lindbeck, the voice actor behind Futaba Sakura in Persona 5, has deleted their Twitter account following a public argument over AI-generated voices.
Erica Linbeck’s voice work can be heard in dozens of anime series and video games, including Hi-Fi Rush, Tell Me Why, and more, but she’s most recognised for her role as Persona 5’s resident hacker Futaba, also known as Oracle. Things went south earlier this week when a video surfaced online which had the AI-generated voice of Futaba “singing” a Bo Burnham song called Welcome To The Internet. Of course, the video’s AI-generated Futaba likely used and manipulated dialogue that Lindbeck had recorded for the Persona games.
Lindbeck had publicly asked for the video to be removed, and the original post was deleted from YouTube. However, plenty of channels have since reposted the AI cover and many more Twitter users pushed back on Lindbeck’s original request with criticism, leading to her removing the account entirely.
AI-generated art isn’t a new controversy, but the recent argument reignited the debate as prominent voice actors and game developers weighed in with their own opinions, both in support of Lindbeck and against the use of AI-generated voices.
Writer and narrative designer Anna Webster said “Voice actors are additional collaborators on a project, not a weird sock puppet to say what you want!” She continued to say that “stealing someone’s voice” is both “unethical” and “just plain weird.” Webster also mentions the idea of character ownership: “The moment one of my characters gets recorded, I no longer see them as ‘mine’... voice actors bring their own expertise and creative vision to the character.”
Spectacular Spider-Man actor Josh Keaton also jumped on the discussion to say: “Erica is a wonderful person and doesn’t deserve any of this.” Replying to one of the comments, Keaton continued to say “There are no two sides about it when it comes to theft,” while discussing those who use AI programs to (re)generate voices.
Many other fans and actors came out in agreement with Keaton’s comments. Spider-Man (the game) actor Yuri Lowenthal retweeted the comment with, “Seconded.” Another fan chimed in to say that people who want to hear Futaba sing should “hire an actual voice actress.”
AI voices and deepfakes have been raising controversy for many months now. Skyrim porn mods were recently in the spotlight as a growing number of mods cloned the performances of real actors to use in inappropriate contexts, without consent.
AI-generated art seems to invite serious questions about ethical consent and legal ownership. Valve recently said “there is some legal uncertainty relating to data used to train AI models,” meaning that AI tools frequently infringe on existing copyrights.
Despite those moral and legal question marks, gaming’s major players are now exploring controversial AI tech.