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AI-Generated Likenesses: A New Frontier for Hollywood?

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According to reports, SAG-AFTRA, the union representing Hollywood performers, has responded to the studios’ “last, best, and final” offer to end the strike. The union has rejected clauses that would allow studios to reuse AI-generated likenesses of highly sought-after and deceased performers without their consent. Allegedly, the union intends to present a counter-offer that eliminates the current AI-related language. A source from the union expressed, “They can’t have that loophole to exploit performers. We could not allow that language to stand.”

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) proposed the idea of securing AI scans for Schedule F performers, which includes union members earning more than $32,000 per TV episode or $60,000 per film. The studios’ suggested agreement would require a one-time payment for scanning the likenesses of Schedule F performers without the need to pay for their subsequent use or reuse. Essentially, this would grant studios perpetual rights to use their likenesses after an initial upfront payment.

An even more striking aspect of the proposal is that the way it is written seems to advocate for the limitless use of AI-created likenesses of deceased performers without proper permission. THR reports that the current language in the AMPTP’s offer would enable studios and streamers to utilize scans of deceased performers without obtaining consent from their estate or SAG-AFTRA. However, SAG-AFTRA reportedly seeks to include a requirement for consent and compensation each time a studio or streamer reuses performers’ AI scans. It is worth noting that after this aspect of the dispute became public, Variety reported that the union had “reached a common understanding” with AMPTP regarding “thorny issues” such as AI consent after an actor’s passing.

Before the news of the modified offer emerged, a source told THR, “We think it’s not just reasonable but is absolutely vital to the sustainability of the performance industry.” They also mentioned that the Schedule F AI language in the AMPTP’s proposal seemed to require consent while the performer was alive but not after their passing.

On Monday, SAG-AFTRA reportedly updated its union members about the ongoing negotiations, assuring them that they will not accept an unfavorable contract. The union communicated, “Please know every member of our TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee is determined to secure the right deal and thereby bring this strike to an end responsibly.” They also mentioned that there are several essential matters that still lack agreement, including AI, and pledged to keep members informed as developments unfold.

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