Hollywood Writers' Guild Reaches Deal Over AI

A new model is needed to take into account the way AI is trained and original authors are compensated.

Writers will receive legal protections against AI taking their jobs

After almost five months of strikes, screenwriters in the US have reached a draft agreement that provides protections against the impact that AI may have on the industry, among other concerns.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) said the deal offered "meaningful gains and protections for writers". The strike has shut down most TV and film production since the summer began.

AI And Streaming

The two key issues at stake were the threat of artificial intelligence (AI) replacing writers' roles, and the need for fair compensation in the era of streaming. In short, new technologies mean the filmmaking industry has outgrown the framework within which it has operated for decades. It's thought that the walkout, which began on May 2, has cost the US around $5 billion.

It's currently unclear what exactly the protections for writers against the threat of AI to their jobs will be. WGA members still need to vote on the deal, and the Guild said that further information would only be divulged when final contract language was available.

The rapid rise of AI—from a theme of science fiction to a viable technology in the course of just a few months—raises many questions for artists and creatives, as well as most other industries. Last month a federal judge upheld a finding from the US Copyright Office that a piece of art created by AI is not open to protection. This may feed into the studios' current thinking, since any AI-generated content they produce may also be outside of copyright protections, meaning they stand to lose significant revenues on works that leverage the new technology.

One ray of hope for writers is that intellectual property law has always held that copyrights are only granted to works created by humans. There is also the complicating factor that AI applications are often trained on content scraped from the internet, and this is typically done without permission or payment.

Last week, a group of writers including John Grisham and Game Of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin filed a lawsuit against OpenAI, claiming that the company “copied plaintiffs’ works wholesale, without permission or consideration”. The copyrighted materials were fed into large language models (LLM) to train them, with the result that they could be used to create and sell derivative works—all without royalties being paid to the original writers.

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