Screenwriters and studios in Hollywood have reportedly reached a deal to end the writers’ strike, with terms that include “protections for the use of AI in the writing processes.” The deal will end the nearly five-month-long strike by writers, which has been the longest in decades to have affected Hollywood.
The strike literally caused commotion within the industry, cutting off several shows from screens as nearly 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) walked off the job beginning in May.
AI as one of the thorny issues
US media reports have indicated that the use of AI in the industry was one of the last major challenges in the negotiations. According to a BBC report, while the actual details of the agreement will be known when it is finalized, it is believed that the writers were able to secure a guarantee that AI would not impact their credits or compensation for their work.
But part of the summary of terms released Wednesday morning by WGA shows that the new contract offers defenses for use of AI in script writing process. Part of the protections states that: “AI cannot write or rewrite literary material, and AI generated material will not be considered source material under the MBA, meaning that AI generated material can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit or separated rights.”
Additionally, a writer can choose to use AI when performing writing services, if the company consents and provided that the writer follows applicable company policies. But, the company “can’t require the writer to use AI software (e.g. ChatGPT) when performing writing services.”
The terms of the deal also state that there must be full disclosure to the writer if any materials given to the writer have AI generated or incorporate AI-generated material.
“The WGA reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by MBA or other law,” states another term of the agreed contract.
In an email to its members, the Guild seemed happy with the tentative agreement, describing it as “exceptional.”
“We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language,” said WGA in a statement.
“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional, with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”
The negotiating table
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) president, Carol Lombardini, has led negotiations with Hollywood’s unions, while Ellen Stutzman was the chief negotiator for writers.
Also instrumental to the talks were Disney CEO Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav, NBCUniversal chair Donna Langley, and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who played crucial roles in restarting negotiations with writers over the weekend.
While further details of the deal are yet to be made public, it was reported that the WGA was able to obtain a concession on their primary demands. These include, but are not limited to, an increase in royalties from streaming content. The Hollywood studios also made concessions on minimum staffing levels for shows.
It’s not over yet
According to Sky News, the agreement that came following renewed talks between the parties must be approved first by the guild’s board and members “before the strike officially ends.”
However, the Guild suspended picketing as of Sunday night.
“To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to do so by the Guild. We are still on strike until then,” stated the message to members.
The finer details of the agreement are to be revealed once the final contract is in place, according to the WGA.
“And though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we cannot do that until the last ‘i’ is dotted,” reads part of the memo.
“To do so would complicate our ability to finish the job.”
The AMPTP reportedly remained silent about the proposed deal, only saying that “the WAG and AMPTP have reached a tentative agreement.”
What about the actors?
The tentative agreement reportedly will have no impact on the actors’ strike, which began in July.
While shows like Billions, Hacks, The Last of Us, Strange Things, and The Handmaid’s Tale will get their writers back after the agreement, not all shows will be able to resume shooting due to the parallel strike by actors.
In July, 160,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild-America Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) walked out over pay issues as well as the use of AI in the industry.
According to the BBC, there are no talks scheduled between the studios and SAG-AFTRA. Studios have hesitated at some of the demands by actors, such as “setting aside 2% of streaming revenue to be shared by a show’s cast.”
However, SAG-AFTRA applauded their counterparts for “incredible strength, resiliency, and solidarity.”
They made it clear that their strike would continue, urging studios and streaming services to “return to the table” and “make the fair deal that our members deserve and demand.”