Why AI Was Such an Important Fight for the Actors Guild

Artificial Intelligence is a rapidly evolving technology, and SAG-AFTRA fought to protect actors’ likeness from exploitation.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JULY 12: SAG-AFTRA member Christine Robert pickets in solidarity with striking WGA (Writers Guild of America) workers outside Netflix offices on July 12, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Members of SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors and other media professionals, may go on strike by 11:59 p.m. today which could shut down Hollywood productions completely with the writers in the third month of their strike against Hollywood studios.
Photo: Mario Tama | Getty Images

After 118 days, the AMPTP seems to have finally met the Screen Actors Guild’s terms for a fair contract and a tentative deal between the parties has been reached. Like the WGA, SAG-AFTRA has been fighting for better wages, working conditions, and guaranteed protections against artificial intelligence. 

While an increase in residual payments has certainly been one of the major things that SAG-AFTRA has gone back and forth with the AMPTP on, the use of artificial intelligence has been an even greater sticking point throughout negotiations. Whereas residuals have a framework based on decades of network television that SAG-AFTRA can base their negotiations on as they push for equitable rates in streaming, A.I. is still new technology without a contractual precedent in the industry.

When SAG-AFTRA first announced that it would be moving forward with their strike in July, Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said during a press conference that the AMPTP initially proposed that “background performers should be able to be scanned, get one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity, in any project they want with no consent and with no compensation.”

Even as the months passed, the AMPTP didn’t seem to budge on their A.I. stance. Their most recent offer from only a few days ago contained something that is being referred to as a “zombie” clause, which gave studios the ability to essentially resurrect dead actors on screen without adequate compensation or consent from their estate or SAG-AFTRA. This clause also suggested that studios would only pay actors for an initial scan of their likeness rather than every time that their likeness is used.


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