The most recent season of Netflix's Black Mirror featured an episode called "Joan Is Awful," and it starred Salma Hayek as herself; she sold the AI-generated version of herself to a streaming service called Streamberry so that she could "act" in a show that dramatized a real person's life. Things took a turn for the worse when the real person, Joan, ate an obscene amount of fast food, tossed back a large amount of laxatives, and walked into a packed church and defecated in the middle of the chapel while a couple was getting married. The AI version of Hayek portrayed the same exact thing, and Hayek was incredibly upset about the fact that her likeness was subjected to such an offensive, disgusting act. But she had no legal recourse because she signed off the AI version of herself to act in whatever scene the producers wanted her to appear in.
The episode had a happy ending when the real Joan destroyed the quantam computer that held together multiple universes and made it possible for so many layers of reality to happen at the same time. But a crucial part of the storyline was the idea of famous actresses like Hayek granting production studios the right to use her image and likeness for just about anything they choose—without Hayek ever having to step foot into a studio. It looks like this future could potentially be on the horizon for Hollywood (it certainly wouldn't be the first time that Black Mirror hinted at the future).
Actors On Strike Partly Because Hollywood Wants to Use AI-Generated Replicas of Them for Little Pay
The dawn of a new era in Hollywood, marked by the influx of artificial intelligence, has sparked an intense controversy. The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union is now on strike, alongside the already striking Writers Guild of America (WGA). The central issue in this dispute involves the proposed use of AI-generated replicas of background actors. The controversy unfolded on Thursday when SAG-AFTRA leaders criticized Hollywood studios for allegedly proposing that actors' AI-generated likenesses could be used in perpetuity in return for a single day’s payment.
In the midst of the strike, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents major Hollywood studios and streaming platforms, issued a statement asserting that its proposal included a “groundbreaking AI provision.” The AMPTP argued that the proposed guidelines would safeguard “performers’ digital likenesses” and necessitate actor consent for “the creation and use of digital replicas or digital performance alterations.”
However, SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator, Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, painted a different picture of the studios' offer. He explained that the proposal entails paying background actors for one day of work to have their likeness scanned. Following this, the studios would "own that scan, their image, their likeness, and be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation."
The WGA has expressed similar anxieties over the use of AI. When the guild initiated its strike in May, its proposal demanded regulation of AI use. The proposal specifically called for a ban on AI writing or rewriting “literary material,” AI generation of source material for writers, and prohibition of training AI tools on material written by the guild’s writers. However, the AMPTP refused this proposal, instead suggesting annual meetings “to discuss advancements in technology.”
The ongoing strike by SAG-AFTRA, in conjunction with the WGA strike, has led to an industry-wide standstill in film and television production. It marks the most extensive work stoppage in Hollywood in over six decades. Besides seeking regulation on AI use, both unions are striving for a better residual payments structure. The call for change arises from the industry's shift towards streaming, which disrupts traditional payment systems based on home video sales and television syndication.
As artificial intelligence continues to revolutionize industries worldwide, the Hollywood film and TV industry is no exception. While the technology can provide cost-effective solutions and advanced creative possibilities, its ethical and legal implications cannot be ignored. As we navigate this new era, a balance must be struck that respects and protects the rights of human creatives while harnessing the benefits of AI. For now, Hollywood remains in a stalemate, awaiting a resolution to a conflict that could shape the industry's future.
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