Since the mainstream adoption of AI following OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT in November, several industries have expressed concerns about how the technology could potentially affect their work.
Hollywood actors are joining their counterparts from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and going on strike. This follows failed negotiations between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) on Wednesday.
The actors have been in talks with the AMPTP since last month discussing work conditions, wages, health and pension benefits and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in future television and film projects. SAG-AFTRA also called upon streaming services to be more transparent about viewership to ensure that residual payments were made more equitable as is the case in television. The failure of the two parties to reach an agreement resulted in the actors authorising a strike that began on Friday, July 14 at 12:01 a.m.
Since the mainstream adoption of AI following OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT in November, several industries have expressed concerns about how the technology could potentially affect their work. Creators and artists have been worried that the technology would replace them. Over 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike in May seeking better pay and assurance that they would not be replaced by AI. Some actors have raised concerns that AI, coupled with deepfake, could be used used to create content featuring their likenesses without their consent or for which they will not be adequately compensated.
Voice actor and former SAG-AFTRA board member Justin Shenkarow added his voice to the cause.
“[SAG-AFTRA] is not averse to technology. But at the same time, what’s very important to actors like myself is our likeness and our voice […] If you’re going to use my voice without my permission, you’re infringing on me […] It would be a battle, but I think that it’s very important that [SAG-AFTRA] fights for this so that not only am I protected within union jobs, but potentially some nefarious character using my voice without my permission,” said he.
Speaking at a news conference SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher stated:
“What happens to us is important. What’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor. When employers make Wall Street and greed their priority, and they forget about the essential contributors who make the machine run, we have a problem.”
The actors are hoping for a contract that will ensure that their voices and image are not used without proper compensation. Studio executives, on the other hand, claim that the unions’ requests are unreasonable.
Speaking to CNBC on Thursday morning, ahead of SAG-AFTRA’s announcement, Disney CEO Bob Iger said:
“We managed as an industry to negotiate a very good deal with the Directors Guild, that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business […] We wanted to do the same thing with the writers. And we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of challenges that this business is already facing, that is quite frankly, very disruptive.”
He added that “it will have a very, very damaging effect on the whole business.”