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Writer’s Guild strike ends with tentative deal approved, AI key negotiation

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The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) strike is set to officially end as leaders approved a tentative deal with entertainment studios in Hollywood, part of which includes artificial intelligence (AI) usage in the industry. 

After nearly five months, the strike, which began on May 2, 2023, was pronounced over at 12:01 a.m. PT Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, as reported by Deadline.

One of the major argument points of the WGA, aside from higher wages and more fair contracts, was in regard to AI practices and implementation.

In August, Hollywood studios sent out a memo to the writers and actors on strike with a proposal for AI usage, though it was not sufficient for either guild.

The terms of the official agreed upon tentative deal with the WGA explained that:

“AI can’t write or rewrite literary material, and AI-generated material will not be considered source material.”

According to Deadline, this meant that AI-generated material is not allowed to be used to “undermine” a writer’s credit. The deal also says that:

“A writer can choose to use AI when performing writing services if the company consents and provided that the writer follows applicable company policies, but the company can’t require the writer to use AI software (e.g. ChatGPT) when performing writing services.”

Ellen Stutzman, one of the chiefs of the WGA, said that prior to going on strike, AI terms were ones that studios “refused to negotiate” prior to the strike. 

Related: US judge rules in favor of human ingenuity, denies copyright for AI art

Additionally, companies must be transparent with writers when AI-generated content is given to them or incorporated into a project. The WGA says it “reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by MBA or other law.”

The most recent agreements affect the WGA, which was one of the two entertainment unions on strike. SAG-AFTRA, the other striking union, represents actors and other “media professionals.” This union joined the WGA on July 14, 2023 and is currently still striking. 

AI is one of the main components SAG-AFTRA is fighting against as well. The AI proposal from studios suggested scanning of background performers, for which they would only receive a single day’s payment. Subsequently, they would grant companies full ownership over the scan, their image, and likeness.

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