“It Shocked Me”: Actor Stephen Fry Says His Voice Was Stolen From Harry Potter Books For AI Voice, Warns This Is Just the Beginning of Vocal Theft

Renowned British actor Stephen Fry recently voiced his deep-seated concerns about the alarming potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to be misused in the dissemination of disinformation. Expressing a mixture of shock and horror, Fry revealed a distressing experience: he stumbled upon a startling realization that his distinctive voice, well-known from narrating the Harry Potter audiobooks, had been meticulously replicated using AI technology. What shook him to the core was the discovery that this AI system had been employed to fabricate dialogues and statements he had never provided consent for.

This revelation came to light during the prestigious CogX Festival, where Fry chose to showcase the extent of this alarming technological capability. He played a chilling clip to the audience, vividly demonstrating how remarkably and convincingly the AI system emulated his voice to narrate a documentary. The machine meticulously crafted every word in the clip, none of which had ever been spoken or endorsed by Fry himself. This demonstration was a stark reminder of the potential misuse and ethical implications surrounding advanced AI technologies, raising crucial questions about consent, authenticity, and the responsible application of such groundbreaking innovations.

Unveiling Ethical Concerns and Potential Misuse

Stephen Fry clarified that the AI-driven voice narration came into being through a unique amalgamation of phrases he had originally voiced while narrating the extensive seven volumes of the beloved Harry Potter series. He coined this creation a “flexible artificial voice,” ingeniously crafted to weave disparate words into a cohesive narrative seamlessly.

After playing the clip, Fry shockingly said, “I said not one word of that—it was a machine. Yes, it shocked me.” Further, he added, “They used my reading of the seven volumes of the Harry Potter books, and from that dataset, an AI of my voice was created, and it made that new narration.”

"It Shocked Me": Actor Stephen Fry Says His Voice Was Stolen From Harry Potter Books For AI Voice, Warns This Is Just the Beginning of Vocal Theft
Credits: Reddit

However, Fry expressed a concern regarding this AI-generated voice technology. He highlighted that the narration for the AI documentary was executed without his prior knowledge or consent, much to the chagrin of his representatives. This lack of consent raises a significant apprehension: the potential for this “flexible artificial voice” to articulate any content, ranging from provocative calls to action, such as storming Parliament, to explicit adult material, all unbeknownst to him and without his authorization. The demo we just heard is a case in point, an instance of unauthorized utilization of his voice and likeness.

Addressing AI-Generated Content: Ethical Concerns and Regulatory Imperatives

Fry underlined a growing threat in the realm of AI: the emergence of highly convincing deepfake videos. He cautioned that it wouldn’t be long before these sophisticated algorithms could replicate his likeness and voice convincingly. While acknowledging that deepfake AI videos, exemplified by the infamous Tom Cruise rendition, have existed for a while, he emphasized the need for vigilance in addressing this potential misuse of advanced technology.

Fry’s cautionary remarks arrive amidst a crucial juncture, coinciding with an ongoing strike involving more than 160,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) against major Hollywood studios. The central bone of contention fueling this strike encompasses the implementation of AI in scriptwriting and the potential use of actors’ likenesses in future productions.

The concerns surrounding Fry’s AI-generated voice are part of a broader societal challenge regarding the emergence of AI in content creation. This technology raises ethical and legal dilemmas, particularly in relation to consent and control over one’s image and voice in the digital realm. This instance of AI-created content represents a growing trend, prompting a crucial conversation about the need for ethical guidelines, legal frameworks, and consent protocols.

As the world grapples with the implications of AI-generated content and its potential misuse, it becomes imperative to establish a robust framework that safeguards the rights and interests of both creators and individuals whose likenesses or voices are replicated without consent. Striking a balance between technological advancements and ethical considerations will be pivotal in shaping the future landscape of content creation and ensuring responsible AI use.