SAG-AFTRA strike ends with deal to 'protect members from...AI'

SAG-AFTRA strike ends with deal to ‘protect members from…AI’

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After 118 days, the longest strike by actors in the history of Hollywood has ended with a new deal valued at $1 billion that includes new protections against AI, according to the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the union representing more than 160,000 actors.

In a message posted on its website and X account, SAG-AFTRA stated that its negotiators had voted unanimously in favor of ending the strike tonight at 12:01 am November 9 (presumably Pacific time), and that it had reached a long-sought agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade group representing major Hollywood studios and production companies such as Disney, Universal, Warner Bros. Discovery, and others.

According to SAG-AFTRA, the deal includes “unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI.”

Why was AI such an issue?

The use of AI and 3D scanning of actors, covered by VentureBeat in a deep dive report over the summer, had both been sticking points in the actors’ negotiations.

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Though 3D scanning of actors has around since the 1980s in film to produce special effects, the practice has grown in prominence as it has become more accessible and affordable with multiple tech vendors offering it, to the point that background actors told NPR that they were being scanned for only a day’s worth of work and their likeness kept by studios to use perpetually into the future.

With the advent of commercial AI and particularly generative AI in recent years, actors feared that their likenesses could be puppeted by studios for movies beyond what they had signed onto, depriving them of income.

A number of tech startups have sprung up and already begun working with actors and musicians and performers to digitize their likenesses as “digital twins,” including UK-based Metaphysic, which seeks to also offer a platform for monetizing the digital twins on behalf of their sources.

As recently as just a few days ago, The Hollywood Reporter cited sources close to negotiations stating that AI remained a sticking point until the very end, with the studios apparently seeking to “secure AI scans for Schedule F performers — guild members who earn more than the minimum for series regulars ($32,000 per TV episode) and feature films ($60,000),” as well as “the right to use scans of deceased performers without the consent of their estate or SAG-AFTRA,” termed by some to be a “zombie clause.”

Full details on the deal remain under wraps

Clearly, SAG-AFTRA negotiators came to some sort of compromise on these points that they believe is in the best interests of their members. Few specific terms of the tentative deal have been released yet —by design, as the SAG-AFTRA National Board still wants to review the terms of the “tentative agreement.”

As a result, we’re still waiting to see what precise terms will “protect members from the threat of AI,” but an important note is that the proposed contract is reportedly only good for three years, requiring the union to go back to the negotiating table by that time.

In the meantime, pending further information, read the full SAG-AFTRA statement below:

Dear SAG-AFTRA Members,

We are thrilled and proud to tell you that today your TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee voted unanimously to approve a tentative agreement with the AMPTP. As of 12:01am on November 9, our strike is officially suspended and all picket locations are closed. We will be in touch in the coming days with information about celebration gatherings around the country.

In a contract valued at over one billion dollars, we have achieved a deal of extraordinary scope that includes “above-pattern” minimum compensation increases, unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI, and for the first time establishes a streaming participation bonus. Our Pension & Health caps have been substantially raised, which will bring much needed value to our plans. In addition, the deal includes numerous improvements for multiple categories including outsize compensation increases for background performers, and critical contract provisions protecting diverse communities.

We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers. Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work.

Full details of the agreement will not be provided until the tentative agreement is reviewed by the SAG-AFTRA National Board.

We also thank our union siblings — the workers that power this industry — for the sacrifices they have made while supporting our strike and that of the Writers Guild of America. We stand together in solidarity and will be there for you when you need us.

Thank you all for your dedication, your commitment and your solidarity throughout this strike. It is because of YOU that these improvements became possible.

In solidarity and gratitude,
Your TV/TH Negotiating Committee

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