The popular social media platform TikTok has illegally used and profited from the voice of a professional Canadian voice-over artist, a civil lawsuit filed in the United States alleges.
In her untested statement of claim, Beverly (Bev) Standing is seeking unspecified damages and a permanent injunction against the short-form video site for what she alleges is the unauthorized use of her voice and lack of compensation.
Standing, of Welland, Ont., alleges she found out in November that TikTok was using her vocals for its female computer-generated voice. Among other things, she says some of the TikTok videos contained foul and offensive language.
“I get paid to speak. I get paid to represent brands,” Standing said in an interview on Thursday. “By having my text-to-speech voice on TikTok — which I was not hired to do — it can be detrimental to my actual career.”
Standing, who said she has hundreds of commercial clients in radio, television and the corporate world, said she wants to be acknowledged for her work. But she said she also has a larger purpose with the suit.
“It’s really important for voice talent, clients and creatives to understand that you can’t … just use someone’s voice without permission,” she said. “You can’t do it in the music world, you can’t do it in the art world, and you shouldn’t be able to do it in the voice world.”
Delaware-based ByteDance, the corporate entity that controls TikTok and which is named as a defendant, did not respond to a request for comment. It has yet to file a statement of defence.
The suit filed this month in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, says Standing’s voice and likeness are well known in the U.S. and elsewhere. She claims she has suffered “significant injury and irreparable harm” as a result of the alleged unauthorized use.
“Plaintiff has invested substantial effort in preserving, protecting, and honing her reputation, and has amassed substantial goodwill,” her claim states. “By misappropriating plaintiff’s voice and likeness, defendants have not only traded on plaintiff’s earned goodwill, but are also depriving the defendant of the ability to control her reputation.”
TikTok, she alleges, has created the “false and misleading representation” that she endorses various products and services when, in fact, she has not done so.
“Defendants’ conduct, as described above, was deliberate and wilful, has created and will create a likelihood of confusion, mistake, and deception,” she argues. “Defendants have engaged in such acts intentionally or with reckless disregard for whether the public is confused and deceived.”
The claim requests a hearing by a jury which would, if it agreed with her, decide on an appropriate damages award.
Standing said she has had strong support from the voice-over community in taking on TikTok.
“I haven’t got any work done,” she said. It’s been absolutely overwhelming.”
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