Writers Guild Wins Protections Against AI

From a story on poynter.org by Tom Jones and Angela Fu headlined “Writers Guild wins protections against artificial intelligence”:

After 148 days, the Writers Guild of America ended its strike and released details of its tentative agreement with Hollywood studios.

Among the major gains in the proposed contract — which has yet to be ratified by the union’s membership — are protections regarding the use of artificial intelligence. AI was one of the last sticking points during negotiations, The New York Times reported.

Studios will not be able to use generative AI to write or rewrite literary material, and AI-generated content cannot be used as source material, according to a Writers Guild summary of the deal. Writers can use AI tools to supplement their work with the company’s permission, but they cannot be required to do so. Companies must also inform writers if any materials they give the writer were created with the help of AI.

In winning these protections, the Writers Guild largely received everything it has asked for in regard to AI. The advent of the new technology spurred fears that studios would use AI to avoid crediting or paying human writers.

The deal also gives the Writers Guild the “right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by MBA (the contract) or other law.”

The Writers Guild strike and subsequent deal marks one of the most high-profile, organized labor fights for protections against AI. Other unions in the media industry have sought similar provisions. The Directors Guild of America won a contract in early June that prohibited the use of generative AI to replace work performed by members, and actors in the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are currently on strike in part over issues with AI.

Newsroom unions are also hoping to codify language that prevents companies from using AI to replace journalistic work. Proposals put forward by unions representing journalists at Gannett newsrooms, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press all prohibit the use of AI to replace work done by members.

CNET editor Laura Michelle Davis told Poynter earlier this month that her shop, which is part of the Writers Guild of America, East, has looked to the screenwriters’ demands as a blueprint in deciding what protections against AI are essential. The CNET Media Workers Union will start bargaining for a first contract this fall, and among the protections it is seeking are transparency about the data used to train the company’s AI tools and the right not to use AI.

The use of human-produced material to train AI tools has also caused consternation among newsroom executives, who are concerned about copyright violations. The New York Times, CNN, Reuters, the Chicago Tribune and other news outlets have blocked OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, from scraping its websites, The Guardian reported last month.

Some media organizations are exploring options to negotiate with tech companies over the usage of their content as training materials for AI tools, The Wall Street Journal reported, and the AP has already struck a deal with OpenAI to allow the company to license its archive.

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