Hollywood writers strike ends, guarantees on AI included

A huge sigh of relief is rolling through the Hollywood hills as the Writers Guild of America and major studios and streamers have reached a tentative agreement to end the 146-day strike.

That’s how long the negotiations – which have taken a heavy toll across the content industry – have lasted. The final round of talks was fruitful, though, as negotiators for the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached the finish line on Sunday.

“What we have won in this contract – most particularly, everything we have gained since May 2nd – is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days,” the negotiating committee wrote in its message to members.

“It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal.”

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has also been on strike since July 14th. It was quick to congratulate the WGA.

“SAG-AFTRA congratulates the WGA on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP after 146 days of incredible strength, resiliency, and solidarity on the picket lines,” said the union in a statement.

According to the New York Times, the deal includes most of what the WGA had demanded from studios, including increases in royalty payments for streaming content and guarantees that artificial intelligence (AI) will not encroach on writers’ credits and compensation.

Writers were seeking protection against the possibility that the studios could use generative AI to handle some of the writing without costlier human input. However, on Saturday, lawyers offered to insert a couple of paragraphs inside a contract to address these concerns, and it seems that the strikers relented – after tweaking it a bit, according to the New York Times.

Full details of the contract agreement are yet to be released, though, as the language still needs to be finalized in the coming days.

Thus, it’s not entirely clear yet whether the studios and streamers have committed not to use AI as source material, and not to use the material created by the WGA writers to train large language models.

SAG-AFTRA is also worried over alleged plans to replace them with digital replicas created, once again, with the help of AI technology.

During pre-strike negotiations in April, the studios had refused to talk about AI, saying little was actually known about the technology. But the entertainment industry soon showed it was keen to make massive investments in generative AI.

If AI models can be trained to replace humans like actors or writers, their wages will be much smaller indeed. In July, Netflix, the biggest streamer in the world, offered up to $900,000 for a single AI product manager.

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