Siri's Hebrew Voice Sues Apple Because She Doesn't Like The Way IPhone Owners Are Using Siri

from the how-not-to-sue dept

We cover a lot of weird and pointless lawsuits here at Techdirt. This one, filed by Israeli radio broadcaster Galit Gura-Eini, is one of the weirdest. At first brush, it seems like she might have a legit legal complaint on her hands.

Israeli radio broadcaster and voice artist Galit Gura-Eini, the voice of Waze’s first female navigation directions in Hebrew, alleges that Apple has been using her voice recordings without authorization. Gura-Eini claims she was surprised to learn she was now the voice of Siri when the app launched in Hebrew in 2016. Earlier this year, Gura-Eini approached Apple requesting her voice be removed from the Siri app, but the request was denied.

But things get significantly stranger as her claims continue. First off, it appears the claim against Apple for unauthorized use is bogus. Apple's response to the lawsuit points out it licensed the recordings of Gura-Eini's voice from Nuance Communications. Nuance had the rights to Gura-Eini's voice, so Apple was under no legal obligation to remove the recordings just because she didn't want the company to use them.

Things go completely off the rail with Gura-Eini's other claims. She says she only granted a license to Nuance for "legitimate" uses. So she's suing Apple over the actions of users, claiming the end use of pre-recorded syllables by certain iPhone owners isn't legit.

The lawsuit suggests that Gura-Eini’s voice is “widely identified and associated” with her own live persona. Furthermore, users have taken to using the voice to make it say inappropriate things. This amounts to turning the plaintiff’s voice, “into a vehicle for improper and humiliating speech.”

The licensee -- Apple -- cannot control how end users manipulate a series of recorded syllables controlled by an algorithm. Its use of Gura-Eini's voice for its Hebrew version of Siri is a completely legitimate use. No matter how disturbing it might be to hear your own voice saying horrible things you'd never say, the problem is end users, not Apple.

It's impossible to see how this case moves forward. If the licensing is all in place -- and it appears to be (Apple is longtime partner of Nuance Communications) -- the only thing left is someone seeking to soothe their ruffled feathers with $66,000 from Apple's checkbook.

Filed Under: galit gura-eini, hebrew, israel, siri, siri's voice, text to speech
Companies: apple, nuance


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 3 Jan 2019 @ 9:36am

    Licenses

    If anyone it would be Nuance that possibly violated the terms of the contract they had with her. If she says this is an inappropriate use then it is because Nuance licensed it to Apple as syllables and phonemes rather than complete sentences.

    Unless she specifically sold Nuance the phonemes - in which case there would be no way to determine what a "Legit" use would be, would there?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2019 @ 9:49am

      Re: Licenses

      She almost certainly did sell Nuance the phonemes. As the official voice of Waze (among other things) it would be nearly impossible to have her recorded directly saying all possible streets and addresses in the markets that Waze serves. Though even that wouldn't be full sentences, just short phrases. Full sentences would require her to say all possible variations of (in "distance" turn "direction"/continue on "street name" using "lane(s)"), which would be even less possible to accomplish.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Jan Seven, 3 Jan 2019 @ 10:05am

        Re: Re: Licenses

        She almost certainly did sell Nuance the phonemes.

        Nah, you're just guessing. My guess is that sold something like "tone", perhaps hard to define items like cadence, derived from samples. Modern techniques that you are evidently not up on (likely not on "deepfakes" either) can synthesize an almost perfect output.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Jan Seven, 3 Jan 2019 @ 10:06am

          Re: Re: Re: Licenses

          PS: it'd be nice if Techdirt minion had answered that, but evidently was in the source that he just re-wrote.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Jan 2019 @ 11:01am

          you're just guessing

          So are you.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2019 @ 11:15am

            Re:

            Yes, he is. He even states it: "My guess is...." But you stated your guess as the authoritative answer, which it isn't. That takes you into Trump territory.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2019 @ 11:16am

              Re: Re:

              Doh... Not necessarily you, but whoever the AC was who posted the GGP comment.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Gary (profile), 3 Jan 2019 @ 11:47am

                Re: Re: Re:

                Nuance as a company is rather involved with voice-to-speech and speech-to voice technology. It would be a good guess that they would have voice actors record a range of samples and phonemes for use in their products.

                I mentioned both to cover all the bases - and either way, she doesn't have a leg to stand on.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 4 Jan 2019 @ 1:01am

          Re: Re: Re: Licenses

          "You're just guessing so I'll reject your words, but here's my guess with zero supporting evidence and I'm right!"

          I guess you think this is a valid argument?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 3 Jan 2019 @ 10:00am

    Siri, say "Galit Gura-Eini is a twat".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Jan Seven, 3 Jan 2019 @ 10:02am

    Forced association / hosting / literally speaking for.

    Now, if was Facebook "platform", Techdirt would vehemently argue rights of association / term of service (= licensing) / First Amendment Right to control one's speech (literally here!), but no, in Techdirt's view, "natural" persons must always lose to globalist mega-corporations.

    [PS: See, I'm sticking up rights of an Israeli! So you can NEVER again accuse me of "anti-Semitism", by Techdirt's standard of once is enough for all time.]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2019 @ 10:06am

      Re: Forced association / hosting / literally speaking for.

      You literally have no idea what you're talking about, likely because you don't even bother to read anything.

      She was not "forced."

      This has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

      This has nothing to do with terms of service.

      Also, you protest too much. But that isn't a surprise.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Jan Seven, 3 Jan 2019 @ 10:08am

        Re: Re: Forced association / hosting / literally speaking for.

        You literally have no idea what you're talking about, likely because you don't even bother to read anything.

        You literally have no grasp of (not entirely unjustified) analogy plus a bit of sarcasm.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2019 @ 10:15am

          Re: Re: Re: Forced association / hosting / literally speaking fo

          Your analogy is wrong, as always. Move along.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 4 Jan 2019 @ 1:05am

          Re: Re: Re: Forced association / hosting / literally speaking fo

          "You literally have no grasp of (not entirely unjustified) analogy"

          You have no grasp of the English language. Your analogy appears to be that if it were a completely different situation then the reaction would be different. Well, yes, it would...?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 3 Jan 2019 @ 10:44am

      And if we were talking about factual information related to copyright infringement, you would argue that mega-corporations must always have the right to “control” the “speech” of “ ‘natural’ persons”.

      So which is it: Do mega-corps have a “right to censor” or not?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 3 Jan 2019 @ 11:05am

      Re: Forced association / hosting / literally speaking for.

      Alright, I'm going to take a shot at answering this. I know that you are either going to run away or just respond with something irrelevant but I can try...

      Now, if was Facebook "platform", Techdirt would vehemently argue rights of association / term of service (= licensing) / First Amendment Right to control one's speech (literally here!), but no, in Techdirt's view, "natural" persons must always lose to globalist mega-corporations.

      I'm going to try to see what you are saying - she did work for hire. She signed a reasonable contract. (Not some weird adhesion clause like "using this website means we get all your data.) She likely even has an agent that negotiated her contract. (And - she is likely herself incorporated but I'm not going to check on that.) So by all the copyright laws you hold dear, she has legally licensed Nuance to use her voice? What is your actual complaint here, or are you just bored?

      [PS: See, I'm sticking up rights of an Israeli! So you can NEVER again accuse me of "anti-Semitism", by Techdirt's standard of once is enough for all time.]

      Your numerous attacks on the Jewish conspiracy are more telling than standing up for one person against a corporation. I'll take this to be the "sarcasm" you mentioned.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2019 @ 3:03pm

        Re: Re: Forced association / hosting / literally speaking for.

        You clearly have no idea what techdirt view is... Please do not speak as if you do.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2019 @ 11:18am

      Re: Forced association / hosting / literally speaking for.

      Interesting point... is Masnick all about Israeli interests as is usually posted in these threads, or is he all about Google/Apple and against Israeli people?

      It's all in the Nuance I guess.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    stderric (profile), 3 Jan 2019 @ 11:28am

    The lawsuit suggests that Gura-Eini’s voice is “widely identified and associated” with her own live persona.

    If your voice is a vital part of your public identity and primary career, maybe you shouldn't be doing voice acting gigs on the side. (Or does being a voice "artist" sidestep this criticism?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2019 @ 1:36pm

    Hello Smithers. You're quite good at turning me on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, 3 Jan 2019 @ 2:20pm

    Pay Up

    She doesn't have a leg to stand on... but for $66K, it's sadly probably much easier to just pay the money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 3 Jan 2019 @ 5:56pm

      Re: Pay Up

      The problem is if you pay off one cockroach, all the rest come crawling out of the woodwork. Like New Egg and patents, it's better in the long term to fight every claim.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 4 Jan 2019 @ 1:55am

        Re: Re: Pay Up

        Pretty much. She's literally suing them for doing what they said they'd do, only that now she's either realised it was a mistake or was too dumb to know what she agreed to when she got paid for the work. They'd be crazy to settle over "oops I changed my mind, give me money".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2019 @ 2:34pm

    Well then cut Hebrew Siri, recast, replace, reintroduce. If an artist is going to launch a lawsuit over how end-user enjoy their work then it's time to find a new artist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Darkness Of Course (profile), 3 Jan 2019 @ 3:16pm

    Thanks for the laugh.

    It was the first real chuckle I've had today. Too bad it wasn't an actual joke, but it remains a joke anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Slender, 3 Jan 2019 @ 3:29pm

    This is certainly one way to out yourself as a Siri voice, don't you think?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bobob, 3 Jan 2019 @ 6:09pm

    Siridiot

    So basically, she is pissed off that the company she sold or licensed the rights to her voice to used her voice for the reason they bought it - to make money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nobody, 4 Jan 2019 @ 5:10am

    Great...
    Cue the antisemitism in the comments.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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