SAG-AFTRA Approves Deal Curbing AI in Music Production

SAG-AFTRA Approves Deal Curbing AI in Music Production

SAG-AFTRA secures deals with major record labels to limit AI use, ensuring artist consent and compensation and boosting wages and benefits.

Hollywood celebrities, media professionals, and major record labels, including Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, have reached a tentative agreement. The agreement includes protections against the use of AI and increases in minimum salaries.

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The executive committee of SAG-AFTRA, which represents about 160,000 actors and other media professionals, unanimously approved the deal, which runs for five years, from 2021 to 2026, the union said in a statement.

Protecting the rights of artists

Due to AI’s significant impact on the entertainment industry, artists embarked on a strike last year that lasted over a month. Talks between SAG-AFTRA and major studios centered around this issue, and in November, a deal was finally reached between them.

The songs and music tracks produced by generative AI had a devastating effect on the music industry. Since AI made it possible for random people to mimic the voices of artists and create random tracks without the real artist’s knowledge or consent, it wouldn’t be incorrect to argue that they were more affected than actors.

Replica Studios, a business that develops AI voice technology, and SAG-AFTRA previously struck an agreement in January to use artists’ voices—voices that are mimicked by AI—in video games. The agreement permits the artists to negotiate with the company. Additionally, the agreement grants the artists the right to refuse to have their voices used in upcoming projects. 

Consent and compensation

The SAG-AFTRA union stated that before a song using a digital duplicate of an artist’s voice is released, permission and payment must be received under the tentative agreement with the record labels.

It also stated that under the terms of the agreement, “artist,” “singer,” and “royalty artist” could only apply to human beings.

SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, said that “this agreement ensures that our members are protected. While technology can enhance the creative process, the essence of music must always be rooted in genuine human expression and experience.”

The agreement also includes provisions for retirement options, improvements in health to be specifically funded by contributions, and an increase in the percentage of streaming revenue. In the upcoming weeks, it is anticipated that members will cast one more vote to approve the agreement formally

According to a statement from Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director and chief negotiator, “Sag-Aftra and the music industry’s largest record labels have reached a groundbreaking agreement establishing, for the first time, collective bargaining guardrails assuring singers and recording artists ethical and responsible treatment in the use of artificial intelligence in the music industry.” Duncan added that it is evidence of their unwavering commitment to cooperating to protect each other’s rights, dignity, and creative freedom. 

Crab-Tree Ireland states that the agreement protects Sag-Aftra members from artificial intelligence’s growing influence in the music industry. The guild maintains that technology should foster creativity while preserving the fundamental elements of human expression in music. He continued by saying that they are excited to collaborate with their industry partners to create a setting where innovation enhances, rather than lessens, the distinct worth of every artist’s input to their abundant cultural fabric.

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