As Hollywood actors and writers continue to strike for better pay and benefits, California lawmakers hope to protect workers from being replaced by their digital clones.
On Wednesday, Rep. Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) is expected to introduce a bill that would give actors and artists the ability to waive provisions in vague contracts that allow studios and other companies to use artificial intelligence to make their voices, Faces and voices to digitally clone bodies.
“There is increasing concern about technology being used to replace their services,” Kalra said. “There is no doubt that everyone has the right to control their own image, likeness and voice.”
Artificial intelligence can create images, sounds or even digital replicas, fueling fears that film studios will use technology to eliminate jobs in the entertainment industry.
The use of so-called generative AI was a sticking point in contract negotiations between striking actors and film studios. Unions like SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors, voice actors and other entertainment workers, say more protections are needed to protect them from AI’s threat to their livelihoods, even if they get a favorable deal.
The bill, introduced just days before California’s 2023 legislative session concludes on Thursday, offers a first look at how state lawmakers plan to protect workers from the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. The law, Assembly Bill 459, will not be considered by state lawmakers until next year. SAG-AFTRA, which is picketing with the Writer’s Guild of America, supports the legislation.
Draft laws to regulate AI, including to combat it algorithmic discrimination, failed to get into the state Capitol this year. With tech companies and Hollywood studios central to California’s economy, politicians are also trying to allay concerns that government regulation could harm innovation. Gov. Gavin Newsom is taking a cautious approach to the issue, issuing an executive order earlier this month directing state agencies to examine the benefits and risks of generative AI.
Under AB 459, actors, voice actors and other workers who have assigned rights to their voice or likeness, allowing companies to create digital clones or use them in other generative AI applications, could escape these contracts if they do not represent would be through a union or a lawyer. Contractual provisions that do not clearly define the possible uses of an AI-generated digital replica would be considered “unreasonable” under California law, meaning they cannot be enforced.
“The speed at which these technologies have been adopted means the impact may not happen someday in the future, but it is happening right now as studios look to replace real people with digital scans,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG – AFTRA’s national executive director and chief negotiator said in a statement.
He added that he was pleased that the legislation “addresses the unethical transfer of one’s image and likeness through exploitative artist arrangements.”
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios in collective bargaining, has said in the past that AI in screenwriting raises “tough, important creative and legal questions for everyone.” Regarding acting, the AMPTP calls for informed consent and fair remuneration in cases where actors are digitally reproduced.
Hollywood studios already use technology to scan actors’ bodies and faces to create digital recreations of scenes. James Earl Jones, who portrayed Darth Vader in Star Wars, retired but reportedly allowed Disney and Lucasfilm to recreate his menacing and iconic voice using AI and archival footage.
But actors may also feel pressured to transfer rights to their voice or digital likeness, or not fully understand a contract without an attorney, Kalra said. Movie extras People whose bodies have been digitally copied also fear that they will be replaced by their digital replicas. Meanwhile, entertainment companies continue to expand their AI activities.
Authors have also alleged that some tech companies are using their work to train AI systems without their consent. In July, comedian Sarah Silverman and novelists sued Facebook parent companies Meta and OpenAI, which developed the popular generative AI tool ChatGPT, alleging that the tech companies used their copyrighted books to train AI systems.
As concerns continue to grow about AI’s potential threat to the creative workforce, Kalra said lawmakers must act now.
“We need to get ahead of this and make sure we protect those who are struggling to make ends meet and who may feel more compelled to sign on the dotted line,” he said.