The recently signed deal between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and major Hollywood studios has raised concerns about the enforcement of intellectual property rights in an era of artificial intelligence (AI). While the agreement gives writers some leverage with studios, it may not be able to prevent AI companies, whether based in the US or not, from scraping their work. Additionally, questions arise about who bears the burden of revealing when AI has contributed to a script, as studios might argue that they were unaware of AI-generated components. The deal signifies a future where humans and machines collaborate, leaving room for continued experimentation with AI tools and highlighting the need for workers in various fields to fight for control over disruptive technologies.
Although the contract represents a determined start, it may not offer extensive enough protection, according to actor and director Alex Winter. Studios’ continued investment in new AI applications raises concerns, and Winter hopes that the upcoming contract negotiations with the Screen Actors Guild—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) will provide stronger safeguards. Similar to the way Big Tech self-polices with AI, Winter does not see this approach working in the entertainment industry either. The protection of actors’ right of publicity and the potential creation of synthetic “actors” using their past performances also raise intense concerns. The outcome of the WGA negotiations and ongoing unionization efforts in video game studios and other tech firms could have implications for the future of workers in relation to AI technology.
The WGA’s deal with Hollywood studios sets a precedent for workers in various industries, signaling the importance of fighting for control over disruptive technologies. Economist Simon Johnson of MIT commends the WGA’s proactive approach, emphasizing that workers cannot afford to wait until management deploys AI technologies or risk being replaced. By advocating for constraints on employers’ use of AI and ensuring its control by employees, the WGA is in a relatively strong position compared to other workers in the American economy. This approach of not rejecting AI but rather seeking controlled and worker-led use sets an example for unions and workers across different sectors to protect their interests in the face of automation and technological advancements.