Did James Earl Jones really sign over the rights to his own voice to a Ukrainian AI company?!
Take a look at the viral claims, and find out what the facts really are!
Claim : James Earl Jones Signed Over Rights To His Own Voice!
Many media outlets breathlessly reported that James Earl Jones, who voiced Darth Vader, had apparently signed over the rights to his own voice!
They claimed that he was retiring from voicing Darth Vader, and signed over the rights to his voice to Respeecher, a Ukrainian AI technology company.
Gizmodo : James Earl Jones is Retiring from Darth Vader, But an AI Firm Owns His Voice
New York Post : James Earl Jones gives rights to Darth Vader voice to Ukrainian AI company
Mashable : James Earl Jones signs over rights to voice of Darth Vader to be replaced by AI
Deadline : James Earl Jones Signs Over Rights To Voice Of Darth Vader, Signalling Retirement From Legendary Role
Verge : James Earl Jones lets AI take over the voice of Darth Vader
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Truth : James Earl Jones Did NOT Sign Over Rights To His Own Voice!
It is peculiar that so many mainstream media FALSELY reported that James Earl Jones signed over the rights to his own voice.
That is categorically FALSE, and here are the reasons why…
Fact #1 : Vanity Fair Never Said He Signed Over The Rights To His Voice
The claims that James Earl Jones signed over the rights to his voice were based on a Vanity Fair article, called “Darth Vader’s Voice Emanated From War-Torn Ukraine“.
The story was about Respeecher, a Ukrainian voice cloning company that uses artificial intelligence to create new dialogue from archival recordings.
Respeecher had earlier helped Lucasfilm generate the voice of a young Luke Skywalker for The Book of Boba Fett, as well as making Darth Vader sound 45 years younger in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
Anthony Breznican of Vanity Fair never said, in his article, that Jones signed over the rights to his voice, to Respeecher.
In fact, the word “rights” was never mentioned in the entire article!
Fact #2 : JEJ Approved Of The AI-Generated Dialogue
What Anthony wrote was that when James Earl Jones heard the new dialogue created by Respeecher, he approved (signed off) of the work. (my emphasis in bold)
When he ultimately presented Jones with Respeecher’s work, the actor signed off on using his archival voice recordings to keep Vader alive and vital even by artificial means.
The term “signed off” in this context meant “to approve or acknowledge something”.
It does not mean Jones “signed away” his rights – “to give (something, such as rights or property) to someone”.
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Fact #3 : Respeecher Does Not Own Rights To Darth Vader’s Voice
Respeecher was contracted by Lucasfilm to generate new Darth Vader dialogue based on James Earl Jones’ archival voice recordings.
James Earl Jones never signed over the rights to his voice to Respeecher, and Respeecher certainly does NOT own the rights to his voice.
Ukrainian start-up Respeecher … uses archival recordings and a proprietary A.I. algorithm to create new dialogue with the voices of performers from long ago.
The company worked with Lucasfilm to generate the voice of a young Luke Skywalker for Disney+’s The Book of Boba Fett, and the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi series tasked them with making Darth Vader sound like James Earl Jones’s dark side villain from 45 years ago.
Fact #4 : Lucasfilms Owns The Rights To Darth Vader
The Darth Vader character, including his voice, is owned by LucasFilms.
James Earl Jones does not actually own the Darth Vader voice, and is unable to legally “sign away” those rights to anyone, even if he wanted to.
It’s like how he doesn’t own the rights to his famous CNN announcements – “This is CNN” and “This is CNN International”, which belong to… you guessed it – CNN.
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Fact #5 : James Earl Jones Did Not Officially Retire
Many media outlets also falsely claimed that Jones had retired. Not once was it mentioned in the Vanity Fair article that he retired.
In fact, the Vanity Fair article pointed out that Jones helped Lucasfilm and the Respeecher team with the Darth Vader speech in Obi-Wan Kenobi :
Jones is credited for guiding the performance on Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Wood describes his contribution as “a benevolent godfather.”
They inform the actor about their plans for Vader and heed his advice on how to stay on the right course.
Now, Jones is 91 years old, and has not appeared in public in a long time. However, he still appears to be working in some fashion, and has not officially retired, as alleged.
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Dr. Adrian Wong has been writing about tech and science since 1997, even publishing a book with Prentice Hall called Breaking Through The BIOS Barrier (ISBN 978-0131455368) while in medical school.
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