After almost five months, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has reached an agreement with Hollywood studios to end the writers strike. Starting Wednesday, writers will be able to resume work under the conditions established by their new contract.
During the historic strike, AI emerged as a key point of contention between the writers and studios. Though text-based generative AI tools like ChatGPT are very creatively limited as they stand, writers worried that studios would still try to take advantage of these fast-developing tools to avoid paying union members.
“I’m not worried about the technology,” comedy writer Adam Conover told TechCrunch at the start of the strike. “I’m worried about the companies using technology, that is not in fact very good, to undermine our working conditions.”
Along with better residual payments, minimum writers room staffing, and other terms that help screenwriters make a living, the WGA’s new contract outlines limitations on how AI can be used in writers’ rooms.
Per the agreement, AI cannot be used to write or rewrite scripts, and AI-generated writing cannot be considered source material, which prevents writers from losing out on writing credits due to AI.
On an individual level, writers can choose to use AI tools if they so desire. However, a company cannot mandate that writers use certain AI tools while working on a production. Studios must also tell writers if they are given any AI-generated materials to incorporate into a work.
As the WGA’s summary of the contract states, “The WGA reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by [the contract] or other law.”
Currently, the legal relationship between large language models and copyrighted material is murky. But where federal and state law lags behind, the WGA’s bargaining agreement makes clear that union members do not consent to their work being used to train studios’ AIs.
The actors union, SAG-AFTRA, remains on strike, and on Monday, its members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against the video game industry as well. While bargaining on behalf of stunt, motion capture and voice actors in video games, SAG-AFTRA has also expressed concerns about how AI could be used to undermine union members’ creative work.
“For many performers, their first job may be their last, as companies become increasingly eager to scan our members or train AI with their voices as soon as they show up for work,” reads the SAG-AFTRA website.
It’s yet to be determined how the contract for SAG-AFTRA members will pan out, but the WGA’s agreement sets a precedent for establishing limitations against how AI can be used in creative professions.