Hollywood Actors Ratify Landmark $1 Billion Deal, Ending Strike Against AI

Hollywood Actors Ratify Landmark $1 Billion Deal, Ending Strike Against AI
This post's title as imagined by Midjourney.

Hollywood actors have overwhelmingly voted to ratify a deal with studios, ending a prolonged strike that had brought film and television production to a standstill.

The Screen Actors Guild, known as SAG-AFTRA, announced that 78 percent of its members had approved the multiyear contract, signaling what the union’s president, Fran Drescher, declared a “golden age” for SAG-AFTRA.

The new deal has over $1 billion allocated for compensation and benefits. SAG-AFTRA’s union president, Fran Drescher, expressed the union’s newfound strength and optimism. This significant agreement provides financial gains and introduces crucial protections for actors against the use of artificial intelligence (AI) by studios, marking a pivotal moment for the entertainment industry.

AI protections: A landmark inclusion

One of the standout features of the contract is the inclusion of protections for actors in the era of artificial intelligence. As the industry increasingly explores AI-driven technologies, concerns among actors about potential job displacement led to the negotiation of this crucial clause. While the deal does not outright prevent generative AI, it mandates that studios inform the union whenever such technology is employed. SAG-AFTRA would then be able to negotiate compensation for the actors involved, a crucial safeguard against potential exploitation.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), representing major studios such as Netflix Inc. and Walt Disney, welcomed the ratification of the union contract. In a statement, the AMPTP highlighted the positive impact of the vote, stating that the industry and the jobs it supports can now return in full force.

Voting and post-strike resumption

The voting process concluded on the U.S. West Coast, with a simple majority required for the agreement to be sealed. With 38 percent of union members casting their votes, the decisive approval paved the way for actors to resume work, marking the end of the 118-day strike. The tentative deal, agreed upon last month, had already allowed actors to return to sets before the formal ratification.

Despite the overall positive outcome, concerns lingered among some union members, particularly regarding the issue of AI. As details of the agreement emerged, actors and writers took to social media to voice their reservations. The deal does not explicitly prohibit generative AI, leading some to fear potential job displacement as studios explore the creation of entirely synthetic “actors.” Critics argue that the clause requiring studios to inform the union of AI usage may fall short of protecting actors effectively.

Negotiating future challenges

The negotiations leading up to the deal were not without challenges. Reports indicate that the studios presented what they considered their “last, best, and final” offer, including doubled residual payments for actors appearing in popular streaming programs. However, this proposal faced backlash from union members, raising concerns about leaving behind actors in less popular shows. The intricacies of wage increases and residual payment structures added complexity to the discussions.

The use of AI in the entertainment industry drew sharp criticism on social media platforms. Some members expressed dissatisfaction with what they deemed inadequate protections against AI advancements. The studios’ proposal to reuse scans of deceased performers without consent was mockingly called the “zombie clause.” Critics, including prominent writers and actors, argued that such a provision is objectionable and may pave the way for eliminating thousands of jobs in the industry.

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