After a prolonged strike lasting 118 days, Hollywood actors, through their union the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), have secured a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The deal, valued at over $1 billion, stands to enhance the working conditions and compensation structures for the union's membership, which exceeds 160,000 individuals. In a significant turn of events, the agreement has brought forth new protections connected to artificial intelligence (AI), aiming to secure actors' rights against the potential misuse of their digital likenesses.
AI and Digital Rights at the Core
The recent discourse surrounding the use of AI in the entertainment industry has centered on the challenges it poses to actors' rights and incomes. Technological advancements have not only made it more affordable to use 3D scanning for creating special effects but have raised concerns regarding the perpetual use of an actor's scanned likeness. Actors have expressed fears that their digital replicas could be used beyond the original scope of work agreed upon, potentially affecting their income and control over their image.
The growth of the digital twin industry underscores the urgency for regulatory frameworks that address the usage and compensation of digital representations. Actors have called for measures that ensure their consent and fair compensation if their likenesses are used, especially posthumously. Reports indicate that the agreement with AMPTP covers such concerns, though the full details remain confidential pending a review by the SAG-AFTRA National Board. Amid the strikes, streaming services such as Netflix has increased their prices.
Future Negotiations and Industry Support
The contract, set to span three years, will likely require the union to re-engage in negotiations at the end of this term, highlighting the evolving nature of digital rights in the industry. The deal reportedly covers various improvements beyond AI-related issues, including minimum compensation increases, a streaming participation bonus, and enhancements to health and pension plans. Additionally, the agreement aims to address the needs of diverse communities within the union's membership demographic.
The resolution of the strike also underscores the unity among various industry workers and their unions, reflecting a broader trend of solidarity within the entertainment sector. In the wake of the agreement, SAG-AFTRA has shared its intention to update the membership with comprehensive details of the deal and to organize celebratory gatherings. The resolution of this strike marks a pivotal point in Hollywood's history, establishing a precedent for how emerging technologies like AI will be integrated into the industry's standard practices.
Authors Also Fighting Back Against AI
A group of writers, including major figures like Michael Chabon and David Henry Hwang, have filed a lawsuit against OpenAI. They claim that the company unlawfully accesses their copyrighted works to train its AI model, ChatGPT. Chabon and the group have also brought a similar lawsuit against Meta Inc. for the same reasons.
Earlier in the year, Sarah Silverman, Christopher Golden, and Richard Kadrey accused both OpenAI and Meta of copyright infringement. They claim technology companies obtained their books from illegal sources, such as websites that offer free downloads of pirated books.
In July, a group of leading news publishers also considered suing AI companies over copyright infringement. The publishers allege that the AI firms are infringing on their intellectual property rights and undermining their business model by scraping, summarizing, or rewriting their articles and distributing them on various platforms, such as websites, apps, or social media.