The End of the Hollywood Writers Strike

by Warren Seah

The much-anticipated Hollywood writers strike came to a close on Wednesday, as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) reached an agreement with the studios. While the union’s leadership has unanimously recommended that members support the deal, what makes this pact noteworthy is its focus on protecting workers against the growing threat of artificial intelligence (AI).

Safeguarding Writers’ Rights

Under this agreement, which will be put to vote next week, the use of AI in writing will be subject to certain limitations. Both the creation and modification of literary material by AI will be prohibited. This measure aims to ensure that AI-generated content does not infringe upon a writer’s credit or any relevant copyrights.

According to Patricia Phalen, Assistant Director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, “The basic controls on the use of AI are more than the studios wanted to agree to, I’m sure.”

Balancing AI and Writer Collaboration

While the deal acknowledges the potential benefits of using AI in the creative process, it also emphasizes the importance of collaboration between writers and studios. Writers can only utilize AI technology with the explicit consent of the relevant studio. Additionally, studios are obligated to inform writers if any materials provided to them have been generated by AI or incorporate AI-generated content.

The Rising Influence of Generative AI

The increasing interest in generative AI can be attributed to last year’s release of ChatGPT, a technology that has sparked debates and raised concerns amongst labor organizers. This strike by the WGA marks the first labor action to address AI as a fundamental issue.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives believes that AI regulations will become vital in a world where technological advancements are transforming various industries. He states, “AI guardrails will be the cement wall more workers and industries try to put up given this generational tech shift. The writers strike is just the tip of the iceberg and what’s coming to the industrial and consumer ecosystem in 2024 and beyond.”

A New Chapter Begins

As the Hollywood writers strike draws to a close, the agreement reached between the WGA and the studios sets a precedent for protecting writers’ rights in the face of AI advancements. While paving the way for possible collaboration with AI, this deal ensures that writers’ creativity and contributions are duly recognized and respected.

The Impact of AI on Creative Industries

The U.S. Copyright Office emphasizes the need for human creativity for material to be protected by copyright, highlighting potential challenges for studios completely relying on AI technology to replace human writers.

While the writers strike has come to an end, attention now shifts to the Screen Actors Guild’s own strike. AI technology presents a particular concern for actors as it can imitate their likenesses and speech. SAG-AFTRA is advocating for the safeguarding of actors’ images and performances to prevent their replacement by AI.

The implications of AI are not limited to Hollywood unions. NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss reveals that AI has become a topic of discussion in contract negotiations for writers in news media. The NewsGuild, representing 18,000 journalists across 220 outlets, expresses significant worry regarding how generative AI may be implemented by employers.

Schleuss emphasizes the importance of journalists being able to exercise their profession and utilize technology as necessary. It is crucial for workers to have control over the use of AI, while also preventing companies, especially hedge funds and private equity groups, from exploiting it as an opportunity to replace journalists, which would have devastating consequences.

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