We have already examined how AI is likely to change the film industry on //next. But what are the implications of the recent strike by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), whose concerns are exacerbated by the increasing integration of AI in Hollywood? Our colleague Michał Denka, Senior Program Manager at ERGO Technology & Services, says: “The reproducibility of AI can be likened to plagiarism, a concept precisely defined in the field of copyright that allows authors to protect their rights. Similar principles should apply to artificial intelligence - it can support the creative process, but it can't replace it.”
The SAG-AFTRA Strike has thrust the film industry into a battle that transcends traditional labour disputes. As members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have followed striking writers to demand better contracts. Their concerns are amplified by the growing integration of Artificial Intelligence in movie industry. This strike marks a pivotal moment, as actors and screenwriters raise their voices against the potential ramifications of AI's presence on the art and craft of storytelling. The recent conclusion of the WGA’s strike, which is widely considered as a win for the striking writers, suggests that the actors could be heard as well.
At the core of the strike lies the pressing issue of how AI is altering the landscape of the film industry. From advanced virtual actors to AI-generated scripts, the technology is pushing the boundaries of creativity and challenging the traditional role of human actors. SAG-AFTRA members have identified crucial sticking points that highlight the need for a comprehensive re-evaluation of their contracts in light of AI's growing presence.
One of the central concerns voiced by the union members is the risk of job displacement. As AI-driven characters become increasingly lifelike, there is a growing fear that human actors might be marginalised, replaced by digital counterparts. While AI technology has the potential to enhance visual effects and streamline production processes, it also threatens to jeopardise the livelihoods of skilled professionals who have dedicated their lives to the craft of acting.
A good illustration of this issue is Disney's “Secret Invasion” which captivated audiences with its AI-generated opening credits. Drawing from an expansive database of iconic Marvel scenes and characters, the production team harnessed the power of AI to curate a visually stunning sequence that seamlessly weaved together key scenes from the Marvel cinematic universe. However, this bold step into the realm of AI-driven creativity stirred up a wave of controversy, with debates swirling around the extent of AI's role in shaping artistic expression and the potential implications for human actors and creators in the industry.
Furthermore, AI-generated content raises ethical and creative dilemmas. Human actors are imbued with unique emotions, experiences, and nuances that make their performances authentic and resonate with audiences. AI-generated characters may lack the depth and soul that humans bring to their roles, ultimately compromising the art of storytelling. Moreover, the use of AI in content creation raises questions about intellectual property rights and the rightful ownership of AI-generated works, which need to be addressed in the new contracts.
SAG-AFTRA's strike also serves as a call for industry-wide collaboration to address the ethical implications of AI in filmmaking. Actors are advocating for more transparency and guidelines regarding the use of AI in their projects. They insist on being adequately informed when AI is utilised in a film's production, and they demand a say in how AI-generated performances are credited and compensated. Negotiations are also underway to ensure that AI is used as a tool to augment human creativity rather than replace it.
Beyond the film industry, the SAG-AFTRA strike sparks broader conversations about AI's integration across various sectors and its impact on the workforce. As technology continues to advance, it is essential for unions and policymakers to forge a path that balances technological innovation with the preservation of human-centric industries.
It is not just a contract dispute; it is a manifestation of the existential challenges posed by AI in the film industry. This pivotal moment calls for industry leaders, actors, and AI developers to come together to chart a future where AI enhances the creative process while respecting the irreplaceable essence of human talent. By finding common ground and creating balanced contracts, the film industry can navigate the complexities of AI integration and secure a sustainable and equitable future for all its stakeholders.
In September we saw the conclusion of another momentous strike withing the American film industry as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced reaching an agreement with Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Similarly to actors, the writers saw AI as an important risk factor. The agreement states that writers can use AI if they choose, but it should not be used by studios to displace them. It also deals with the issue of exploitation of writers’ material to train AI. This could well become a guiding principle for the agreement with actors as well – AI can be used as a tool to enhance the work of creative professionals if they choose, but should not a substitute for them.
The issue of AI in the art industry has become a growing concern in Europe too, mirroring the strikes and controversies witnessed in the United States. As the European art sector embraces technological advancements and explores the creative potential of AI, similar questions arise regarding job displacement, creative integrity, and ethical implications.
The executive summary report on “AI in Creative Sectors” by the European Commission (The project Opportunities and Challenges of Artificial Intelligence Technologies for the Cultural and Creative Sectors has been commissioned by the European Commission, DG CNECT and DG EAC and prepared by a consortium made up Technopolis Group, the Danish Institute of Technology, the Research Institute of Sweden, and BOP Consulting) sheds light on the profound influence of AI on the arts, where machine-generated content and AI-driven creations are progressively leaving their mark. European artists, like their American counterparts, grapple with the challenge of preserving their unique artistic identity while embracing the possibilities AI offers.
Thus, the necessity for clear guidelines and regulations to address ownership, authorship, and attribution in AI-generated art becomes paramount to foster a balanced and sustainable future for the industry – one that harnesses the potential of AI without compromising the essence of human creativity and expression.
“Technology provides us with an incredible opportunity to reshape our perspective on the world,” comments Michał Denka, Senior Program Manager at ERGO Technology & Services: “This new perspective doesn't necessarily have to be better or worse than the current one, but it will undeniably contribute to the creation of a new reality. And with the new reality comes the unknown – a factor that can easily evoke fear.”
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that concerns about AI are widely prevalent in the creative industry: “These concerns are justified because technology doesn't neatly fit into the categories of good and evil; it's up to the people who use it to determine how it is perceived. Regulating this realm will be complex, but it is essential. Without regulation, we won't be able to establish trust in technology and infuse it with the much-needed ethical dimension. The reproducibility of AI can be likened to plagiarism, a concept precisely defined in the field of copyright that allows authors to protect their rights. Similar principles should apply to artificial intelligence – it can support the creative process, but it can't replace it.”