In a landmark development, Hollywood’s major unions, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA), have successfully negotiated contracts to address the encroachment of artificial intelligence (AI) on the entertainment industry. The agreements follow extensive strikes, notably a 118-day strike by the WGA, and aim to protect the rights of actors and writers in the face of evolving AI technologies.
For actors, the focus of the negotiations was on safeguarding against the unauthorized use of their likenesses in AI programs. The Screen Actors Guild secured a provision preventing the use of actors’ images in AI without permission or compensation. However, the victory falls short of fully protecting actors from entirely AI-generated likenesses, leaving room for potential challenges, especially for lesser-known actors.
The threat lies in the fact that AI can create digital likenesses by amalgamating features from various actors, making it challenging to track, particularly for those less recognizable. This existential threat, while currently more pronounced for well-known actors, raises concerns about the job security of bit-part players and background extras who could be entirely replaced by AI-generated constructs.
The impact extends beyond the famous faces dominating headlines about the strikes, such as TV star Fran Drescher, the current president of SAG-AFTRA. Most union members, numbering 140,000, are individuals relatively unknown to the public, often playing minor roles with minimal dialogue. These actors face the risk of losing work not only due to AI but also because of changes in the industry, such as shorter seasons in streaming series.
While Hollywood actors grapple with the evolving landscape, voice actors express their concerns about the increasing use of generative AI in the entertainment sector. The historic contract agreement between SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) addresses generative AI’s potential to craft high-quality original content, including voice performances.
Voice actors, such as Jesse Inocalla, worry that generative AI might lead studios to favor cost-effective synthetic voices over human actors, risking the duplication of their work without consent. The contract outlines provisions for the use of generative AI, categorizing it into employment-based digital replicas, independently created digital replicas, and synthetic performers. However, concerns linger about potential loopholes, such as not requiring actor consent for altering voices using generative AI for foreign language adaptations.
As Hollywood addresses the challenges posed by AI, the contracts represent a significant step forward in acknowledging and mitigating the risks associated with the rapid advancement of technology. The agreements aim to balance the need for innovation with the protection of human creativity, setting the stage for continued negotiations and adaptations in the ever-evolving landscape of entertainment and AI integration.