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Hollywood actors are winning the battle against artificial intelligence

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Part of the Actors Guild of America’s (AFP) “Victory” celebrations

Sunday 12 November 2023 / 12:00

Following difficult negotiations with Hollywood studios, the Actors Guild of America welcomed new restrictions on the use of artificial intelligence, after a historic strike that paralyzed the industry for months, with the deal guaranteeing “artist protection”. Technology forever.

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) this week reached an agreement with major studios like Disney and Netflix to end its strike, which has lasted nearly 4 months. On Friday, its board of directors voted 86% in favor of the agreement, which must now be ratified by members.

The union won a 7% increase in the minimum wage and $40 million in new funding annually, which aims to return a portion of the proceeds of successful productions to actors.
But concerns about the use of artificial intelligence have created a major new element in these negotiations.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, a negotiator for the SAG-AFTRA union, said during a press conference Friday that the agreement “allows us to restart the industry’s wheels without blocking artificial intelligence,” “but it guarantees the safety of artists.”
“Their right to consent is protected, as is their right to work and receive fair wages,” he added.
In recent years, artificial intelligence has allowed studios to bring realistic digital versions to the screen, or use computer-generated background silhouettes to reduce extraneous figures in film scenes.
In an effort to cut costs, many manufacturers want to focus on artificial intelligence. Some have begun asking for “body scans” to copy actors’ movements and expressions, often without explaining how or when the images will be used.

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“Warranties”

Under the contract, the actor would receive the same income as if he had done the same “work” himself using his digital copy, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland explained.
As for the additional features in the business, according to Crabtree-Ireland, “no digital copy can be used to avoid payment by involving a second-tier agent”.
Studios must obtain consent from the actor or rights holders for every use of their digital copy. The contract must provide a “reasonably accurate description” of how the copy will be used.

This is the first time that artificial intelligence technology has been part of the requirements of SAG-AFTRA, which renegotiates its contract with studios roughly every three years.
According to union president Fran Trescher, “a year is three months in the world of artificial intelligence” so it’s important to address this issue.
“If we didn’t get these guarantees, what would have happened in three years?” the former star of “The Nanny” asked during a press conference on Friday.
“We always strive to achieve something but never achieve it,” he added.

‘core element’

Another controversial topic surrounding artificial intelligence: the use of “fake actors” described by the special magazine “Variety” as “mutant” creatures or “digital Frankensteins”, which are actually digital versions of real actors made from different body parts.
“If you use Brad Pitt’s smile and Jennifer Aniston’s eyes, they both have the right to be endorsed,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told Variety.
He pointed out that studios here also now have to get express consent from each actor involved, and that his wages can be negotiated through the SAG-AFTRA union.

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Fran Tresher stressed that artificial intelligence was a “crucial element” in the negotiations, stressing that the new rules are aimed at supporting workers in many industries in the entertainment industry in addition to actors.
“In the virtual world, there is no need for hair and makeup artists, drivers and interior designers,” he said.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland took the opportunity to urge politicians to make regulating AI a “priority”. He promised that the union would advocate for “legislative initiatives” and be “strongly engaged” in protecting the rights of “every person” like actors.

Pandora Bacchus
Pandora Bacchus
"Coffee evangelist. Alcohol fanatic. Hardcore creator. Infuriatingly humble zombie ninja. Writer. Introvert. Music fanatic."

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