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SAG-AFTRA Leaders Explain How They Landed AI Protections for Actors

SAG-AFTRA Leaders Explain How They Landed AI Protections for Actors

By Movieguide® Contributor

The actors’ strike ended last week after 118 days, and Fran Drescher and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland explain why AI regulation was a hot-button issue from start to finish.

“With AI, things move very fast, and three months is equivalent to a year in how things can change,” said Drescher, the SAG-AFTRA President. “If we didn’t close that up now, then you’ll be so far behind you’ll never be able to catch up. It was really important to us that we got the protections we felt that we absolutely needed to sustain this contract until the next one.”

This topic proved to be the hardest to resolve as this was the sole issue left for the final weeks of negotiations. The protection that SAG-AFTRA negotiators pursued was more extensive than the ones the writers pursued with their strike. This differed from both unions’ desire for better compensation from streaming platforms, where the actors’ and writers’ requests were comparable. Thus, once the writers’ strike was resolved, the question of better pay was quickly resolved for the actors, while AI regulation remained unsolved.

“I think our proposals are more specific than the ones that you’ve seen in other contracts because our members are experiencing the use of AI right now,” said Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s Chief Negotiator. “This is not something that’s coming down the road. This is something that’s currently happening.”

“So, we do have very specific protections around the creation and use of digital replicas, including informed consent for any creation and use as well as compensation structures for how people should get paid for both the creation and use of digital replicas,” he continued.

The contract states that these protections apply to everyone, including background actors, whom the studios will need to get consent from whenever their likeness is used to create AI-generated performers.

The groundbreaking contract also extends these protections to deceased actors, requiring consent from heirs or representatives of the estate to produce an AI-generated performance.

SAG-AFTRA leadership has also negotiated to continuously return to the issue of AI, stipulating that the union and studios meet every six months to discuss the use of the technology in the entertainment industry. This is also meant to help them form a unified approach in pursuing regulations through lawmaking to protect from piracy, for example.

Beyond heavier AI regulations, the actors’ union was also able to negotiate a higher wage increase than the writers saw. The contract is expected to boost wages in the industry by a combined $1 billion, with a 7% increase for most minimums and an 11% increase for background actors.

“People need to know that this strike was not about celebrities per se, this strike was about working actors. This strike was about people who are trying to make a middle class living,” Crabtree-Ireland explained. “There [was] an overall commitment to improving the economic viability of a career as an actor in this business. And that’s really good for all of us.”

“Generations from now they’ll be talking about this seminal contract and reaping the benefits of it in the way that we have been for the last 65 years with a contract that was negotiated when Ronald Reagan was in my position,” Drescher added.

Having finally reached a contract that properly addresses their main concerns, the SAG-AFTRA negotiators accepted the deal and sent it to the union’s leadership for a vote. Leadership approved the contract with 83% voting in favor. All that remains is for the union’s members to ratify the contract. Voting will remain open for members through the first week of December.

Movieguide® previously reported:

The SAG-AFTRA strike began over 118 days ago, and the actors’ union and the AMPTP finally reached a deal Wednesday evening.

According to Deadline, “Coming just less than a month after Writers Guild members overwhelmingly ratified their own agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, SAG-AFTRA’s deal is the culmination of the latest round of renewed negotiations that began October 24. Indicating the seriousness and stakes of the negotiations, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Disney’s Bob Iger, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav frequently directly participated in the talks.”

The union sent an email saying, “We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers. Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work.”

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Now more than ever we’re bombarded by darkness in media, movies, and TV. Movieguide® has fought back for almost 40 years, working within Hollywood to propel uplifting and positive content. We’re proud to say we’ve collaborated with some of the top industry players to influence and redeem entertainment for Jesus. Still, the most influential person in Hollywood is you. The viewer.

What you listen to, watch, and read has power. Movieguide® wants to give you the resources to empower the good and the beautiful. But we can’t do it alone. We need your support.

You can make a difference with as little as $7. It takes only a moment. If you can, consider supporting our ministry with a monthly gift. Thank you.

Movieguide® is a 501c3 and all donations are tax deductible.