You are currently viewing Actors x AI: strikes over digital twins in the film industry

In recent years, the film industry has witnessed transformative technological advancements, with the rise of so-called “digital twins” – realistic digital versions of real-life actors – gaining prominence in Hollywood productions. While this technology offers new creative and narrative possibilities, it has also sparked heated debate and a series of strikes between renowned actors and film studios in the United States, especially in 2023. The ethical, legal, and privacy issues surrounding the use of these “digital twins” have prompted deep reflection on the boundaries of representation and control over one’s own image in the digital world.

The Hollywood Strikes of 2023: Actors’ Quest for Fairness and Control

The Hollywood strikes began with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) demanding better working conditions, higher wages, and the non-use of artificial intelligence in scriptwriting, among other demands. Faced with the problematic use of AI in the film industry, the Screen Actors Guild—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) also went on strike. For them, the issue is much more personal, as the studios’ goal was not only to replace actors with AI but also to replicate their images for future use without the need for authorization.

During negotiations, it was discussed how AI poses kind of an existential crisis for actors who worry their past, present, and future work will be used to generate synthetic performers who can take their place. It’s worth noting that the union wasn’t seeking an outright ban on AI but rather that companies consult with it and get approval before casting a synthetic performer in place of an actor, which according to what the film companies wanted, wouldn’t happen as once the actor signed to play a role, they should grant the rights to future use of their image without subsequent consultation and approval by the actor.

The Agreement: Resolving Conflict and Protecting Performers in the Digital Age

After 118 days, an agreement was reached between the actors’ union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, bringing an end to the strike that started in July and ran until November. It was the longest movie and television strike in the union’s 90-year history, and as a result, studios are now required to obtain consent from and pay actors, or from representatives of deceased performers, for the use of their AI-generated likenesses.

Now, performers must also be paid for the days they would have had to work in person if their digital replica is being used, and background actors must be paid if their replicas are used as principal characters, as well as owed residual payments, which compensate performers when their work is rebroadcast or reused when their digital replicas are used onscreen.

Looking Ahead: Ensuring Continued Protection for Actors in a Rapidly Evolving Industry

The recent agreement between Hollywood actors and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) represents a significant step in seeking protection and safeguarding the rights of entertainment professionals in the face of advancing digital twins and other emerging technologies. However, it is crucial to recognize that this agreement may not be as comprehensive as initially imagined. The rapid development of artificial intelligence and imaging technologies raises complex questions about privacy, image control, and ethics in the entertainment industry.

The current agreement is a step in the right direction, but we must not become complacent with the idea that protection is guaranteed permanently. As we move forward, it is essential to maintain constant vigilance and an adaptive approach to address evolving challenges. The evolution of artificial intelligence in the years to come may require regular revisions of established agreements and policies, ensuring that the rights and interests of actors continue to be effectively protected.

Beatriz COELHO GUEDES DE PAIVA

M2 droit de l’économie numérique – Promotion 2023/2024

Sources

  1. Here’s Why Some Actors Oppose The SAG-AFTRA Artificial Intelligence Deal
  2. Hollywood Actors Strike Ends With a Deal That Will Impact AI and Streaming for Decades
  3. Hollywood strikes: Actors denounce AI -generated ‘synthetic’ counterparts
  4. The Hollywood Strikes Stopped AI From Taking Your Job. But for How Long?
  5. This AI Deal Will Let Actors License Digital Voice Replicas

A propos de Beatriz COELHO GUEDES DE PAIVA

En formation en Master 2, Droit de l'Économie Numérique à l'Université de Strasbourg

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