TV and film studios need to step up their game when it comes to using actors’ likeness to train generative AI systems. The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union made a strong argument this week to the US federal government, calling for explicit consent, credit, and fair compensation for actors whose work is used in this manner.
At a roundtable discussion held by the FTC examining the creative economy and generative AI, SAG-AFTRA’s executive director, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, pointed out the “double standard” in the relationship between actors and corporations when it comes to copyright infringement. He questioned why it’s perfectly fine for businesses to use AI to generate material from creative people’s work, but if someone were to use a business’s intellectual property, it suddenly becomes a problem.
Crabtree-Ireland highlighted the financial and legal ramifications that an individual would face if they were to infringe on a company’s copyright and distribute it without permission. So, it begs the question, why aren’t the individuals who contributed their intellectual property to train the AI algorithm equally protected?
Actors are concerned that studios could clone their faces, bodies, or voices using AI software to create new content without their explicit consent. Once an actor’s likeness is scanned and deployed, corporations could exploit it indefinitely. This issue recently gained attention when Hollywood actor Tom Hanks and top YouTuber Mr Beast discovered that their images had been unknowingly copied in fake scam advertisements.
Furthermore, the daughter of the late Robin Williams expressed her distress over the replication of her father’s voice through AI testing, especially considering he cannot provide consent.
SAG-AFTRA members are currently on strike as they negotiate with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for higher wages, better working conditions, and protection against AI encroaching on their livelihoods.
The union has urged officials to safeguard human-created work that would require consent and compensation if an AI “digital replica” is modeled after an actor or if their performance is altered using the technology. They emphasize that AI-generated content originates from human creativity and deserves legal protection.
Last month, the AMPTP reached an agreement with the Writer’s Guild of America, promising to regulate the use of generative AI by production companies and to credit and pay writers for their work. It’s a step in the right direction, and hopefully, similar progress can be achieved for actors.