Hollywood Guilds Come Out Strong For “Ethical & Transparent” AI Bill From Adam Schiff

SAG-AFTRA, IATSE the WGA, and even the DGA have united behind a legislative move to put up some new and slightly punitive guardrails around Artificial Intelligence.

“Everything generated by AI ultimately originates from a human creative source, says Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, of a new bill proposed today by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). “That’s why human creative content—intellectual property—must be protected. SAG-AFTRA fully supports the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act, as this legislation is an important step in ensuring technology serves people and not the other way around,”

Deep into his race to be California’s new junior Senator, Schiff introduced the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act into the 118th Congress (read it here) Tuesday. If passed by the House and Senate and signed by President Joe Biden, the succinct act would require companies and corporations that use copyrighted works in the training of their generative AI systems training datasets to submit a public notice with the Register of Copyrights.

In short, before you put that AI created material out there, you’ve got to pull back the veil and reveal where you scooped up the info and datasets from. Now, with its $5,000 civil penalty for violations, the bill doesn’t exactly hit the tech overlords and studios that hard where it counts.

However, with the fears and harsh realities that AI itself generates among below-the-line workers and creators, the fact is the introduction of the legislation alone sees Schiff tossing some blue meat to his base. In a Senate bid that is his to lose against a Republican challenger he promoted, Schiff, who is commonly known as the Congressman from Hollywood for the number of studios in and around his Burbank district, is putting an issue of vital importance to unions and guild members on the table.

The use and implications of AI was a very big part of last year’s strikes by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. Despite the handwringing of those who predicted it would sink any deal, protections around AI for guild members ended up being a major part of the agreements the scribes and the actors came to with the studios and streamers.

Now with the long anticipated introduction of Schiff’s new bill , leadership is responding again.

“This bill is an important first step in addressing the unprecedented and unauthorized use of copyrighted materials to train generative AI systems,” states WGA West chief Meredith Stiehm. “Greater transparency and guardrails around AI are necessary to protect writers and other creators.”

Stiehm’s East Coast partner, WGA East president Lisa Takeuchi Cullen added: “The Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act is an important piece of legislation that will ensure companies use this new and rapidly advancing technology in ethical and transparent ways. Given the scope and potential threat of AI, enforceable regulations are urgently needed to keep companies from implementing this technology in the shadows, without people’s consent or knowledge.”

“The Directors Guild of America commends this commonsense legislation, which is an important first step toward enabling filmmakers to protect their intellectual property from the potential harms caused by generative AI,” says DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter. “We thank Representative Schiff for championing these rights that will protect filmmakers and the entire creative community.”

In the midst of their own negotiations right now with the AMPTP, in which AI is a distinct priority, IATSE goes straight for the bottom line when it comes to Schiff’s bill.

“The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees commends Rep. Adam Schiff for introducing the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act,” IATSE president Matt Loeb declares. “Entertainment workers must be fairly compensated when their work is used to train, develop or generate new works by AI systems. This legislation will ensure there is appropriate transparency of generative AI training sets, thereby enabling IATSE workers to enforce their rights.”

Since the contract agreements that ended the months-long WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes of last year, a number of guild brass have made it very clear that legislative solutions to the unmitigated growth of AI are the next logical step. To that end, SAG-AFTA and others have already been working the halls of Congress to see bills like Schiff’s hit the floor of the GOP controlled House.

“The threats of AI to workers is a bipartisan issue, both sides know it can hurt their constituents,” one union leader said to Deadline after Schiff’s bill was introduced today. “I’ve heard concerns from almost as many Republican members as I have Democrats,” he added.

Schiff’s bill follows up on the momentum began by President Biden’s Executive Order on AI from last October and the subsequent three-pillar strategy Vice President Kamala Harris and the administration rolled out late last month.

On a state level, there are two bills moving through the Assembly in Sacramento that also hope to curb AI’s reach and power, especially in relation to Hollywood.

Currently in the early stages of the legislative process, the SAG-AFTA backed and MPA opposed AB 2602 would cement protections for performers that digital recreations of them or their work could only be used with permission and compensation. Another bill, AB 1836, would put contextual and creatives limits on the AI or digital use of deceased performers, from a Sidney Poitier to a Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, a Heath Ledger and many more. At its core, AB 1836 would make use of a dead star’s likeness and performance only allowable if the 21st century use is within the context of what the performer actually did when they were alive – – AKA no Jane Wyman and Marilyn tag-team wrestling.

As Adam Schiff said today of the Generative AI Copyright Disclosure Act: “This is about respecting creativity in the age of AI and marrying technological progress with fairness.”

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