After nearly five months, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has reached a groundbreaking agreement with Hollywood studios, effectively ending the writers strike. Under the new contract, writers will be able to resume work while enjoying better residual payments, minimum staffing requirements for writers’ rooms, and other provisions to support their livelihoods. One major point of contention during the strike was the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the creative process, as writers feared that studios would exploit AI technology to undermine their working conditions. To address this concern, the new agreement establishes clear limitations on the use of AI in writers’ rooms. AI tools cannot be used to write or rewrite scripts, and AI-generated writing cannot be considered as source material, protecting writers from potential loss of credit. While individual writers have the option to choose AI tools, studios cannot mandate their use, and writers must be informed if any AI-generated materials are provided. The agreement also emphasizes the prohibition of exploiting writers’ work for training AI.
The WGA’s agreement with Hollywood studios sets an important precedent in the industry regarding the use of AI in creative professions. Although AI tools like ChatGPT currently have creative limitations, writers were concerned that studios would take advantage of rapid advancements in AI to avoid paying union members or undervalue their contributions. The contract explicitly acknowledges the rights of writers and the potential for AI exploitation, allowing the WGA to assert that using writers’ material to train AI is prohibited under the contract or other laws. This provision highlights the WGA’s determination to protect its members from any potential misuse of AI tools. Notably, the agreement does not resolve the ongoing strike by SAG-AFTRA, the actors union, which recently authorized a strike against the video game industry. SAG-AFTRA shares similar concerns regarding AI’s impact on their members’ creative work and fears that their voices could be used to train AI without consent.
While the legal relationship between large language models and copyrighted material remains hazy, the WGA’s bargaining agreement establishes a strong stance against the exploitation of writers’ work by AI. It ensures that writers maintain control over their creative output and that their work is not covertly used to train AI systems. This decision sends a clear message that the creative contributions of union members should be respected and protected in the age of AI. As the writers strike comes to an end, the agreement serves as a significant milestone in the ongoing battle to safeguard the rights of creative professionals against potential AI encroachment. The outcome of the contract negotiations for SAG-AFTRA members is yet to be determined, but the WGA’s agreement can provide guidance and inspiration for future discussions and negotiations in the creative industries.