The news of simultaneous strikes from the Writers’ and Screen Actors’ Guilds of America has many people asking the same question… who cares? Hollywood is full of millionaires! Everyone’s jobs are being threatened by the popularity of A.I.! Why should anyone care about the actors?
Consider these strikes the canary in the coalmine. We are at the onset of an alarming trend and it’s not about paying creatives. (Although, with A-List names like Mandy Moore receiving $0.01 in residuals for her starring role on the hit show, ‘This is Us’, that may also be a conversation worth having.)
This is about the rise of A.I. and a human being’s right to own their own image, voice, and labor.
The ATMTP Offer to the Strikers:
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is a trade association of production companies including popular platforms like Amazon, Disney, Netflix and more. The AMPTP reportedly offered striking writers (WGA) and actors (SAG-AFTRA):
- The highest percentage increase in minimums in 35 years.
- A groundbreaking A.I. proposal which protects performers’ digital likenesses, including a requirement for performer’s consent for the creation and use of digital replicas or for digital alterations of a performance
- Substantial increases in pension and health contribution caps.
While the pay increase, pension, and health caps are an improvement upon the current arrangement, they do not meet the demands of the striking workers. Additionally, the “groundbreaking A.I. proposal” does little to protect the least-paid actors.
A.I. and the Writers’ Guild of America:
The WGA is demanding, in part, that:
- Human writers are not made to edit A.I. written scripts,
- A.I. models will not edit human written scripts,
- That A.I. models are NOT trained on union-protected material.
The last bullet is the most crucial. Despite its name, A.I. is not creatively intelligent; it mimics intelligence provided by humans. An A.I. model must be fed massive amounts of material to function—scripts, books, newspaper articles—all of which was authored by a human being. As of now, regulation surrounding the use of these materials to train an A.I. are lackluster. Additionally, writing created for a company is owned by that company. If a person is compensated for their abilities once, should a company be able to synthesize those abilities in perpetuity, without their input or consent?
AI and the Screen Actors’ Guild of America:
- Actors pay increase,
- Streaming payments keeps up with inflation,
- Residuals payments are reassessed for the streaming industry,
- Studios NOT be allowed to use A.I. technology to scan and reproduce an individual’s image or voice.
Again, the last bullet is particularly important. SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, elaborated on this “groundbreaking A.I. proposal”, which requested that “performers should be able to be scanned, get one day’s pay, and their companies should own that scan, their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity on any project they want, with no consent and no compensation.”
You read that right.
What This Means For You:
The strikers are NOT yet calling for a commodity boycott, so those at home aren’t breaking strike lines by using their favorite streaming services. However, expect a steady diet of reruns and reality television, until the strikes have commenced.