US Actors’ Strike Ends with Historic AI Deal, Ensuring Protection for Performers
After a grueling 118-day strike, the US actors’ union Sag-Aftra announced the end of their battle with Hollywood studios over the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and secured a groundbreaking AI agreement. The strike, which began on July 14th, created significant disruptions in the entertainment industry, but finally concluded with 86 percent of the national board approving a tentative deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers (AMPTP). The agreement includes a record-breaking contract valued at over $1 billion and provides vital protections for actors in the face of AI-generated performances.
Fran Drescher, the president of Sag-Aftra, expressed her satisfaction with the outcome, stating, We hold in our hands a record-breaking contract. One of the essential components of the deal is the provision of informed consent and fair compensation for the creation and utilization of digital replicas of Sag-Aftra members. This protection was deemed a deal-breaker by Drescher, highlighting its significance in safeguarding actors’ rights.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director and chief negotiator for Sag-Aftra, emphasized the seriousness of the fight against Hollywood studios over the use of generative AI to develop synthetic fake performers. He mentioned that the agreement ensures compensation that equates to the work that would have been performed by the actor. Furthermore, companies must obtain performers’ consent to use their facial features in the creation of any synthetic characters.
Described as robust and comprehensive, the agreement over AI aims to protect performers’ rights to consent, compensation, and employment while still allowing the industry to utilize AI technology. The negotiation process reached its culmination on the very last day of the strike, day 118.
Alongside the significant AI provisions, the package includes an 11 percent wage increase for background actors and a 7 percent general wage increase, both taking effect immediately. This wage increase breaks the industry pattern, making it an additional victory for Sag-Aftra.
Crabtree-Ireland further highlighted the inclusion of new and meaningful protections in the deal. These include measures to enhance the self-tape audition process, the requirement for intimacy co-ordinators in scenes involving nudity or simulated sex, and double pay for singers who dance and dancers who sing.
The ratification vote for members will commence on Tuesday, with ballots cast over a 21-day timeframe. Members will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on the agreement, ensuring their involvement in the final decision-making process.
The strike, which was ultimately resolved after 118 days, caused significant ripples in the entertainment industry alongside the simultaneous Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike. After spending 146 days on the picket line, the WGA strike concluded in September when the union reached a deal with studio bosses.
The resolution of the US actors’ strike marks a significant milestone in protecting performers’ rights in the era of AI. With the new AI agreement in place, actors can now move forward with confidence, knowing that their consent, compensation, and employment will be safeguarded, while still allowing the industry to harness the benefits of artificial intelligence.
It is expected that this agreement will set a precedent for similar negotiations within the entertainment industry and serve as an example of how unions can navigate the challenges associated with emerging technologies while prioritizing the rights of their members.
Overall, the end of the US actors’ strike signifies a turning point and paves the way for a more equitable and protected future for performers in Hollywood.