Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild raise alarm over AI’s impact on creative professions

Key Points:
  • Hollywood actors represented by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) are on strike for the first time in 43 years, driven by concerns about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the entertainment industry.
  • The actors union failed to reach an agreement with producers in the US for better protections against AI, warning that AI poses an existential threat to creative professions.
  • Producers proposals, including the use of actors’ likenesses without consent or compensation, have drawn criticism from SAG-AFTRA negotiators.
  • Similar concerns are voiced by the UK acting union Equity, highlighting the use of AI in automated audiobooks, voiceover work, digital avatars, and deepfakes.
  • The Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) also raises concerns about AI’s implications for writers, including unauthorized use of their work, decreased job opportunities, suppressed pay, and dilution of the creative industry’s contributions.
  • The WGGB recommends protective measures, such as requiring explicit permission for AI developers to use writers’ work and ensuring transparency regarding data usage.
  • Experts and industry figures argue that AI is not necessary for the entertainment industry, emphasizing that it primarily benefits corporations seeking wider profit margins.
  • Concerns are raised about AI’s potential to replace writers and diminish the human touch in film scripts.
  • Ownership rights in the age of AI-generated content become convoluted, with AI-generated images and likenesses not adequately protected by current copyright laws.
  • Experts call for changes in copyright laws to safeguard individuals’ rights and protect against unauthorized use of AI-generated content.

Hollywood is experiencing its first actors strike in 43 years as concerns over the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the movie and television business intensify. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) failed to secure better protections against AI for its members, leading to a halt in production. The union warns that the growing presence of AI poses an existential threat to creative professions.


“Studios had asked for the ability to scan the faces of background artists for the payment of one day’s work, and then be able to own and use their likeness ‘for the rest of eternity, in any project they want, with no consent and no compensation.”

— Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, criticized producers for their AI proposals. Studios sought permission to scan the faces of background artists for just one day’s payment, with the intention of owning and using their likeness indefinitely, without consent or compensation.

Interestingly, US media outlets have drawn comparisons between the ongoing strike and an episode of the popular series “Black Mirror” titled “Joan Is Awful.” The episode explores the storyline of a Hollywood star, played by Salma Hayek, grappling with the unauthorized use of her AI likeness by a production company.


“We’re seeing this technology used in a range of things like automated audiobooks, synthesised voiceover work, digital avatars for corporate videos, or also the role of deepfakes that are being used in films.”

— Liam Budd, Equity union representative

Concerns about so-called “performance cloning” extend beyond SAG-AFTRA. Liam Budd of the UK acting union Equity highlights the use of AI in automated audiobooks, voiceover work, digital avatars, and deepfakes, noting a pervasive sense of fear among Equity members. The union aims to educate its members on understanding their rights in this rapidly evolving landscape.


“Tech should solve a problem, and there’s no problem that those using AI solves. We don’t have a lack of writers, we don’t have a lack of actors, we don’t have a lack of filmmakers – so we don’t need AI.”

— Justine Bateman, filmmaker and writer

Justine Bateman, a filmmaker and writer, questions the necessity of AI in the entertainment industry. She argues that the industry does not lack writers, actors, or filmmakers, and AI primarily benefits corporations by eliminating the need to pay creative professionals. She warns that the proliferation of AI use could destabilize the entire structure of the entertainment business.

The Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), a trade union representing writers for various mediums, including TV, film, theatre, books, and video games, shares similar concerns. The WGGB highlights issues such as the unauthorized use of writers work, decreased job opportunities, suppressed pay, and the potential dilution of the creative industry’s contributions to the UK economy and national identity.

To protect writers, the WGGB recommends that AI developers only use writer’s work with explicit permission and that developers provide transparency regarding data usage. Lesley Gannon, the deputy general secretary of the WGGB, emphasizes the need to balance the risks and benefits of new technologies, ensuring that the protection of writers and the wider creative workforce is not compromised. She calls for regulations to safeguard workers rights and protect audiences from fraud and misinformation.

The rapid development of AI has complicated the concept of ownership. AI-generated content, such as images produced by apps like DrawAnyone, DALL-E, or Snapchat, are now considered part of the public domain, free for anyone to use. This lack of copyright protection for new AI-generated images has prompted calls for changes in UK copyright laws.


“It’s strange to me that your face and your voice is less protected than your car, your laptop, your phone, your house, or your books – but that’s the state of the law today.”

— Dr. Mathilde Pavis, lawyer specializing in digital cloning technologies

Dr. Mathilde Pavis, a lawyer specializing in digital cloning technologies, points out the disparity between the protection of individuals’ faces and voices compared to other possessions like cars, laptops, phones, houses, or books. She argues that current laws fail to adequately address the vulnerability individuals face in terms of being reused and imitated by AI technologies.

As the Hollywood actors’ strike continues and concerns about AI’s impact on creative professions grow, the need for comprehensive regulations and protective measures becomes increasingly evident. Balancing the benefits of AI with the rights and livelihoods of those working in the entertainment industry is crucial in this rapidly changing landscape.

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