Victory, for now: AI will not replace Hollywood writers


With the five-month-long writers’ strike In Hollywood now over, it also seems that the doors of the industry have, so far, been slammed shut to generative artificial intelligence (AI).

A tentative agreement has been reached between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The wheels of the Hollywood bus will once again go round and round.

And the writers can indeed celebrate. The use of generative AI by companies to undermine writers has been one of the key points of contention – workers were and probably still remain worried that studios would use these new tools widely and avoid paying unionized writers.

However, in a summary of the 94-page Memorandum of Agreement, the WGA said that the new contract now outlines actual limitations on how AI can used in writers’ rooms.

The memorandum says that literary material cannot be written by AI and that the latter material will not be considered source material. This means that “AI-generated material can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit or separated rights,” the document says.

Another provision adds that the writer may of course choose to use generative AI tools like ChatGPT – but only with the production company’s consent. Moreover, the companies cannot require writers to use AI software.

In a bid to keep everything transparent, the production company also needs to disclose to the writer if the material handed over to them was generated by AI software.

Finally, the summary stresses that the WGA “reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by MBA or other law.”

This obviously rings a bell as OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, has already been sued by many renowned book authors such as George R.R. Martin for using their work to train its large language models.

Other than AI, pay increases are another big win for the WGA. The union says that writers of streaming features should see a minimum compensation increase of 18%, provided that the film was budgeted at least $30 million, plus a 26% increase in residual base.

However, probably the most important change has to do with streaming data transparency. Up until now, streaming data was in essence a black hole: no one working in Hollywood actually knew how well projects on, say, Netflix, were doing.

This was a problem because writer's pay for projects is directly tied to the performance. Now, the studios will now have to provide the WGA with actual data.

“The Companies agree to provide the Guild, subject to a confidentiality agreement, the total number of hours streamed, both domestically and internationally, of self-produced high-budget streaming programs (e.g., a Netflix original series). The Guild may share information with the membership in aggregated form,” the WGA said.

In essence, Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon, and other streaming platforms will not be able to invent weird metrics and just simply say that this show was a hit and that one tanked. There will now be real hard data available to the WGA membership.


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