WGA AI Wins are Positive, But Insufficient

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The current work shutdown in the entertainment industry, which began last spring, has brought attention to the devaluation of workers caused by rapid advancements in AI technology. Actors’ likenesses are being replaced by AI replications, writers are facing plagiarism by AI systems, and directors’ styles are being replicated by machine learning tools. The labor unions of the industry have reached agreements with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to protect their labor from exploitation by AI. However, these deals may not offer sufficient protections given the extensive investments made by studios in AI technology.

The agreements made by the labor unions, such as the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA), include provisions that AI cannot replace duties performed by members and that AI-generated material should not be considered source material. However, the studios are already developing various creative and administrative uses for machine learning tools. It is uncertain whether they will halt this development, considering that their copyrighted products could also be threatened by AI tools they do not control. Furthermore, it is challenging to prove attribution with machine learning outputs, making it difficult to prevent these tools from learning on any data the studios desire.

The ongoing negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the AMPTP provide an opportunity to establish even more specific and protective language. The agreements should acknowledge that studios will continue to use AI, while also recognizing that the unions and the AMPTP face common threats from the dominance of Big Tech. It is crucial to address AI’s biases, which reflect society’s biases, and to use these technologies with awareness of the potential harm they can cause. To effectively address the problems caused by AI and other technologies, active engagement and understanding are essential.

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