Voice Actor Sues TikTok for Imitating Her Voice and Likeness

On Thursday, voice actor Beverly Standing, also known as Bev Standing, filed a complaint in the Southern District of New York against ByteDance E-Commerce Inc., doing business as TikTok, alleging that the defendant has imitated her likeness, particularly the likeness of her voice.

According to the complaint, Bev Standing “is a voice actor and is well known in the voice over industry. Plaintiff’s voice and likeness are well-known both in this country and abroad.” Meanwhile, the defendant via TikTok is a “social networking service and social media platform” that has short-form videos. The plaintiff noted that TikTok has a variety of features on its platform, for example, “a user is able to add a computer generated voice to play during the user’s uploaded videos. These videos, including any computer generated voices, are available for consumption by the millions of TikTok users worldwide.”

The plaintiff stated that a few years ago she was “hired by the Institute of Acoustics to perform voice work purportedly for Chinese translations,” however, she added that upon information and belief “a company from China contracted with The Institute of Acoustics.” Standing asserted that her work for the Institute of Acoustics “related to ‘text to speech’ and artificial intelligence technology and resulted in the Institute of Acoustics’ acquisition of electronic data files of Plaintiff’s voice that were recorded on Plaintiff’s equipment.”

Standing contended that she did not have a contract with the Institute of Acoustics that would permit it to transfer the data to another person or entity. However, in November 2020, the plaintiff claimed that she “discovered that her electronic voice files were acquired by Defendant which is using Plaintiff’s voice as the female computer generated voice of TikTok.” Bev Standing averred that while the voice and likeness are hers, a TikTok user can “determine what words are spoken in Plaintiff’s voice and some videos depicting Plaintiff’s voice have involved foul and offensive language.” The plaintiff noted that she was not compensated for the use of her voice and likeness nor did she give permission for TikTok to use her voice and likeness. Bev Standing noted that her voice files are proper subjects for copyright protection, asserting that the voice files satisfy the originality and the fixation requirement.

The plaintiff alleged that TikTok unlawfully used her voice and likeness on its platform without her permission, which has caused her significant injury and irreparable harm. She proffered that she has invested significant resources to preserve, protect, and hone her reputation and goodwill. According to the plaintiff, by misappropriating her voice and likeness, TikTok has “traded on Plaintiff’s earned goodwill” and “depriv(ed) the Defendant of the ability to control her reputation.” The plaintiff claimed that TikTok’s conduct violates her right of publicity, as well as the Lanham Act and constitutes unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.

The six-counts are right of publicity, unfair competition/false endorsement under the Lanham Act, common law unfair competition, violation of N.Y. General Business Law, permanent injunctive relief, and copyright infringement.

The plaintiff seeks adjudgment, to preliminary and permanently enjoin the defendants from further deriving from her image and likeness, to dispose of copies of unauthorized usage and materials, to turn over proceeds, an award for damages, restitution, an award for costs and fees, pre and post judgment interest, and other relief.

The plaintiff is represented by Robert J. Sciglimpaglia, Jr.