You may have seen the news yesterday that Hollywood actors have gone on strike, and figured it was about pay and working conditions. Which it is.

However, the potential application of AI technologies in the TV and film industries is also part of the dispute between actors union SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP, the body that represents studios and streaming services.

“The studios and streamers have implemented massive unilateral changes in our industry’s business model, while at the same time insisting on keeping our contracts frozen in amber,” said SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “That’s not how you treat a valued, respected partner and essential contributor.”

For its part, AMPTP – whose members include Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Disney and the big US studios – has criticised the decision to strike, releasing a list of the elements of the offer it had made to the union including pay, pension and health contributions.

Let’s get to the AI part though. AMPTP said that its offer included a “groundbreaking AI proposal which protects performers’ digital likenesses, including a requirement for performer’s consent for the creation and use of digital replicas or for digital alterations of a performance”.

In a press conference reported by The Verge, Crabtree-Ireland begged to differ. “This ‘groundbreaking’ AI proposal that they gave us yesterday, they proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get one day’s pay, and their companies should own that scan, their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity on any project they want, with no consent and no compensation,” he said.

This isn’t even the first Hollywood strike with AI technologies at its heart this year. May’s screenwriters strike was partially driven by concerns about the potential use of generative AI in that discipline, and union the Writers Guild of America’s desire for protections for its members.

Why are we writing about Hollywood strikes as our lead story today? Well, it’s just interesting to see how these concerns about AI – or rather, about what the humans running big entertainment corporations choose to do with AI, which is an important distinction – are playing out in other industries.

In music, the comparable debates have so far positioned rightsholders and the industry against technology companies. This week alone, we’ve seen Universal Music call for a US-wide ‘publicity right’ to tackle deepfake recordings, while British industry body UK Music urged politicians to create a ‘personality right’ to protect the personality and image of musicians.

A key question here is who would own, control and police these new rights, and how would they be treated in the contractual negotiations between rightsholders and musicians?

Artist and AI-builder Holly Herndon recently warned artists that “for the time being it is a good idea not to sign any contract regarding usage of your voice in an AI context”. She also advised her fellow musicians who were considering label deals to negotiate an AI exception for voice usage.

It’s hard to imagine a musicians’ strike comparable to what’s happening in the US with actors and screenwriters. However, the core elements of the AI issues there – control over likenesses and creative work, and ownership of the relevant rights – could well also fuel future tensions in our world.

That said, if our industry is thoughtful about these issues, what’s happening in Hollywood could inform our path to easing these tensions, and putting together the contractual frameworks that benefit musicians, rightsholders and innovative AI music companies alike. But we admit, that’s an optimistic hope.

EarPods and phone

Tools: platforms to help you reach new audiences

Tools :: Wyng

Through Music Ally’s internal marketing campaign tracking, we’ve recently discovered an interesting website by the…

Read all Tools >>

Music Ally's Head of Insight