The longest actors’ strike in Hollywood history ended as actors and studios reached an accord on the use of generative AI in making movies.
What’s new: Film studios must seek an actor’s consent before using a generated likeness or performance and compensate the actor, according to an agreement between the trade union Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (TMPTP). The pact will remain in effect for three years, once it has been ratified by SAG-AFTRA members.
How it works: The agreement covers digital replicas of human actors, synthetic performers, and simulated performances created using AI and other technologies that may not be generally recognized as AI. The parties argued over terms with respect to AI until the very last day of their 118-day negotiation, according to SAG-AFTRA’s president. Among the provisions:
- Studios must compensate an actor if performances are used to train a model.
- Studios must secure an actor’s consent before using a synthetic likeness or performance, regardless of whether the replica was made by scanning the actor or extracting information from existing footage. The actor has the right to refuse. If the actor consents, studios must compensate the actor for the days they would have worked, if they had performed in person.
- Studios may use digital replicas of recognizable actors who have background roles and don’t speak, but they must compensate the actors. If studios alter a synthetic background actor so it appears to speak, they must pay the actor a full wage.
- If studios want to synthesize a deceased actor who did not consent while alive, they must seek consent from the heirs or estate.
- Studios can combine the likenesses of multiple actors into a “synthetic performer,” but they must seek consent and compensate the actors for “recognizable elements” they use. In addition, they must notify SAG-AFTRA and allow the union to bargain on behalf of the actors.
- TMPTP must meet with SAG-AFTRA semi-annually to review the state of affairs in AI, giving the actors an opportunity to adjust guidelines in response as technology and law develop.
Behind the news: The agreement followed a similar three-year deal in September that ended the concurrent strike by Writers Guild of America.
Yes, but: The agreement covers on-screen actors. It does not cover voice or motion actors in video games or television animation. In September, SAG-AFTRA authorized a strike against a group of video game companies if negotiations, which are ongoing, stall. Negotiations over television animation are expected as well.
Why it matters: The actors’ agreement could set an international example for limits on AI in the performing arts, thanks to the U.S. film and television industry’s global reach. Entertainers’ unions in Europe and Canada are contemplating strikes inspired by SAG-AFTRA’s, and they may seek similar agreements.
We’re thinking: As with the screenwriters’ contract, the agreement between actors and studios gives everyone three years to experiment with AI while respecting the consent, credit, and compensation of creative workers. We hope that shows made in this period provide ample evidence that such tools can yield wonderful productions that enlarge the market, and that the next agreement focuses more on growing the use of AI and dividing the winnings fairly among actors, studios, and technologists.