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AI Firm ElevenLabs Sets Audio Reader Pact With Judy Garland, James Dean, Burt Reynolds and Laurence Olivier Estates

AI audio firm ElevenLabs has set agreements with the estates of Judy GarlandJames Dean and other legends to use their voices to read books, articles, PDFs and other text material to mobile users of its new Reader App.

ElevenLabs envisions users tapping Garland’s legendary pipes to read the original L. Frank Baum novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” or Laurence Olivier to deliver a Sherlock Holmes story, in addition to a range of other works. ElevenLabs emphasizes that it has struck license agreements for authorized use of the legendary voices as part of the “Iconic Voices” feature of its app.

The Reader App is designed adapt “articles, PDF, ePub, newsletters, e-books or any other text on your phone” to become “emotionally rich, context aware voiceover” for listening on the go, according to ElevenLabs.

The agreements specify that the voices of Garland, Dean, Reynolds and Olivier can only be used via ElevenLabs for pre-determined purposes. Those voices will not be incorporated into ElevenLabs’ broader audio database used for the AI-generated creation of new works. “The audio generated with these voices are designed to be enjoyed for individual streaming use, rather than to create content designed to be shared,” ElevenLabs stated.

ElevenLabs reached the pathbreaking license deal covering the four late stars with CMG Worldwide, a Beverly Hills-based IP management firm that specializes in representing the rights of celebrities and celebrity estates. Liza Minnelli, a daughter of Garland and a rep for her mother’s estate, endorsed the deal in a statement. More than 50 years after her death at age 47, Garland’s voice remains instantly recognizable thanks to her timeless movies — from “The Wizard of Oz” to “A Star is Born” — and music.

“It’s exciting to see our mother’s voice available to the countless millions of people who love her. Through the spectacular new technology offered by ElevenLabs, our family believes that this will bring new fans to Mama, and be exciting to those who already cherish the unparalleled legacy
that Mama gave and continues to give to the world,” Minnelli said.

Tina Xavie, chief marketing office for CMG Worldwide, hailed the deal as an example of an authorized agreement with appropriate compensation for the value of a celebrity’s voice.

“As someone who has had the privilege of representing iconic figures throughout history for decades, I am incredibly excited about our partnership with ElevenLabs. We appreciate their thoughtful approach in working with talent in the right way,” Xavie said. “We are excited by the new opportunities they are providing our clients and look forward to more to come.”

The announcement comes as SAG-AFTRA is pushing the California legislature to forbid AI replicas of deceased actors if done without the estate’s permission. The union-backed bill, AB 1836, passed the Assembly, 59-0, in May, and is now the state Senate. The Motion Picture Association has opposed the bill, warning that it could encroach on First Amendment rights.

ElevenLabs, which launched its beta platform in early 2023, creates AI audio tools in 29 languages to facilitate the easy creation of audiobooks and news articles, to animate video game characters, to assist in pre-production of film and TV and to translate movies and TV shows into local languages.

It also has applications for creating audio content for social media and advertising and for educational training. The company said more such voices are coming to its Iconic Voices service.

“Judy Garland, James Dean, Burt Reynolds and Sir Laurence Olivier are some of the most celebrated actors in history. We deeply respect their legacy and are honored to have their voices as part of our platform,” said Dustin Blank, Head of Partnerships at ElevenLabs. “Adding them to our growing list of narrators marks a major step forward in our mission of making content accessible in any language and voice.”

SOURCE: Variety