Nearly Two Weeks into the National Writers’ Strike: Little Progress Amidst Concerns Over AI in the Entertainment Industry
The ongoing writers’ strike led by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has reached a stalemate, with minimal advancements made between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Central to the dispute are the WGA’s demands regarding the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry, including limitations on AI’s ability to write or rewrite literary material and the use of AI as a source for creative projects.
Studios have largely rejected these provisions concerning AI, instead proposing annual meetings to address evolving technological developments. One of the primary concerns for writers is the potential for their jobs to become obsolete, replaced or supplemented by large language models capable of writing entire scripts. While AI has been utilized in television and film before, such as in the upcoming “Indiana Jones” film to de-age the lead actor Harrison Ford, its use in scriptwriting is a novel concept.
Ryan Steelberg, co-founder and CEO of Veritone, an artificial intelligence tech company at the intersection of intelligence and entertainment, recognizes the need for improvement from both sides of the debate. Steelberg believes that writers and industry professionals should be open-minded and fully educated about the capabilities of AI tools to ensure their concerns are adequately addressed. He emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the potential infringement on intellectual property rights and the need for guardrails and due credit in the use of large language models.
Noted screenwriter Paul Schrader, acclaimed for works like “Taxi Driver” and “American Gigolo,” suggests that writers’ fears are less about AI itself and more about fair compensation. Schrader explains that the WGA’s stance on AI centers on ensuring that its members receive proper payment for their work. He argues that if a WGA member utilizes AI, they should be compensated as a writer, and if producers employ AI to create a script, they should be required to hire a WGA writer and compensate them accordingly.
James Schamus, a writer and member of the WGA negotiating committee, expresses both anxiety and excitement about the potential impact of AI on storytelling. He dismisses the notion that AI will completely replace human writers, emphasizing the conglomerates’ intention to exploit AI as a managerial tool to disempower workers. Schamus calls attention to the studios’ use of AI and demands safeguards to protect writers’ interests.
Domenic Romano, an attorney at Romano Law, acknowledges the concerns raised by writers regarding AI but clarifies that AI is just one facet of the broader issue concerning compensation. The WGA points out that while project budgets have expanded, writers’ earnings have dwindled. Romano believes that AI will initially serve as a supplementary tool for writers, aiding in overcoming writer’s block and generating starting points for creative projects. However, he highlights the legal complexities associated with AI’s use and urges the establishment of guidelines for controlling intellectual property fed into AI systems.
While the clash between writers and AI companies persists, Steelberg remains optimistic that a collaborative solution can be reached. He anticipates increased legislation and a demand for transparency in AI’s use, including detailed attribution of source material and training data. Steelberg envisions a future where writers and AI companies can find common ground and work together effectively.
As the writers’ strike continues, it becomes clear that compromises and agreements will be necessary to navigate the changing landscape of the entertainment industry, ensuring that both the creative talents of writers and the advancements of AI are respected and protected.