Uncovering How SAG-AFTRA Took on AI Zombies: A Thrilling Battle

Amid the extensive negotiations, SAG-AFTRA resolved various issues, such as pension and health contributions, self-taped audition page limits, and background actors’ pay.

However, one unresolved matter remained – the controversial topic of zombies.

The pressing concern was that studios could potentially utilize artificial intelligence to bring deceased actors back to life or create digital replicas from real actors’ features.

These were some of the final sticking points before the conclusion of the union’s 118-day strike on Wednesday.

While SAG-AFTRA didn’t secure every AI restriction it sought, it did manage to attain significant concessions, including the requirement for studios to obtain consent from real-life actors if their recognizable features are used in a digital “Frankenstein” actor.

Chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland emphasized that if prominent physical aspects of actors such as Brad Pitt or Jennifer Aniston are incorporated, both would have the right to give consent.

AI emerged as a central issue during the strike, posing a threat to actors’ control over their performances and careers.

Member of the SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee, Caitlin Dulany, regarded the AI provisions as the crowning achievement of the new contract, ensuring that union members feel secure and protected.

Writers Guild of America negotiations also delved into AI, but the urgency and complexity were heightened for actors, who feared that AI could be used to replicate their work or performances against their will.

The unions were unable to garner complete AI-related restrictions, but SAG-AFTRA did secure safeguards against the use of recognizable physical features in synthetic performances and the consent requirement for the use of deceased actors’ images.

Moreover, the estate of deceased actors now has control over the use of the actors’ names and likenesses in “expressive works” like movies and TV shows, including the use of AI to create digital versions of deceased actors without their estate’s approval.

The negotiators at SAG-AFTRA fought for and successfully attained protection against such practices, notably requiring studios to obtain consent from the estates in these instances.

Individual actors now have the right to approve the use of AI in specific projects, but limitations are in place to prevent infinite replication across various productions, ensuring that AI consents are project-specific.

While the agreement’s full details are set to be unveiled on Friday, the culmination of the negotiations has undoubtedly set precedent and laid the groundwork for the future of AI usage in the entertainment industry.


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