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Hollywood Strikes Back Against Generative AI Disruption

The rise of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) blurs the line between human and machine creativity, impressing the world with its art-making and innovative potential. The creative industry is ripe for GAI applications. For example, an upcoming film will de-age Tom Hanks using a new Metaphysic GAI tool. The new technology allows filmmakers to capture data from actors to replicate their performances and insert them into future movies without physically being present on the set. The Beatles broke new creative barriers by co-producing a new song with the use of AI.

Production studios are increasingly integrating AI into the entertainment industry because it is more cost-effective than employing humans for content creation. Reshoots can be a significant production cost. The latest Superman movie, “Man of Steel,” required several costly reshoots before premiering because the lead for the movie needed to have facial hair digitally removed. In this instance using GAI would have saved money and improved quality.

Generative AI is transforming the industry, unleashing new opportunities for human creativity and innovative potential. However, concerns about AI usage on job displacement, copyright, and data privacy played a key role in the recent labor disputes in Hollywood. This blog dives into the specifics of the disputes and workforce implications of companies adopting new AI technology and how GAI impacts creative professionals.

The Hollywood Strike

This summer two different labor unions, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guilds went on strike, for four and five months respectively, against the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP), whose members include Amazon, Netflix, Apple, and the big five U.S. studios.

Both unions were concerned with how to safeguard their members against disruptions caused by Generative AI. GAI was seen as a threat to writers’ livelihoods if studios were to use GAI to replace writing roles, and actors wanted to safeguard their identities and personalities (‘likeness’) from being digitally recreated without their consent.

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Workforce Implications

According to Goldman Sachs (refer to figure 1), artificial intelligence has the potential to automate approximately 25% of existing work tasks across the United States, and 26% of traditional work-related activities within the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media.

Figure 1

Image: Goldman Sachs

Generative AI’s rising capabilities are accelerating the need to establish frameworks that safeguard worker rights and address job disruption, while also leveraging the technology to boost productivity and create new jobs. During the strikes, the entertainment industry negotiated potential remedies for protecting worker rights by emphasizing consent, compensation, and credit for utilizing artists’ work in collaboration with AI. The AMPTP proposed new protections for actors and crew such as wage increases and health contributions, even if studios partially rely on AI tools. For example, the new SAG-AFTRA agreement includes “compensation for the use of Employment-Based Digital Replica for the number of production days that Producer determines the performer would have been required to work.”

Policy initiatives are also taking place to protect creative workers from job displacement due to AI. For example, New York State Senator Lea Webb sponsored Senate Bill S7422A, which prohibits production companies from seeking tax credits if they use artificial intelligence in a manner that results in the displacement of employees.

Safeguarding Privacy

Since the invention of face-scanning technology and deepfakes that can replicate performer’s voices and movements, there are ethical questions about actors’ privacy and control over their personal data and biometrics. As a best practice, many companies receive permission before re-creating someone’s voice. In the fall’s negotiations, the AMPTP proposed securing specific consent from the performers required both to create and use digital replicas in the motion picture for which the actor is employed. The SAG-AFTRA agreement states that “clear and conspicuous” consent is required if a background actor’s appearance is digitally altered, like changing facial movements.

In response to the growing concerns from creative industries, Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced a bipartisan legislation, Nurture Originals, Foster Art, and Keep Entertainment Safe (NO FAKES) Act, to explicitly safeguard individuals’ voice and visual representations from potential misuse by generative artificial intelligence. Similarly, Senators Brian Schatz [D-HI] and John Kennedy [R-LA] introduced the AI Labeling Act to mandate clear disclosure of AI-generated content, including its origin and creation method, enhancing transparency to help identify fraudulent use of voice and image content and protecting the rights of artists. Despite being introduced, there is minimal momentum within Congress to advance these bills.


The U.S. Copyright Office and the courts are considering the copyright implications surrounding content created by or with the help of generative AI. The studios expressed interest in leveraging GAI to co-write scripts and storylines and then have human authors edit or rewrite. With regards to copyright, the protections can only apply if they undergo a certain level of human involvement. The specific extent of human involvement needed to safeguard AI-assisted creative works is unknown and the creative community seeks protection against using their work to train GAI models without their consent.

The recent agreement between the Writers Guild and AMPTP offers some clarity that could influence future policy decisions. Their agreement stipulates: AI cannot independently create literary material, AI-generated content cannot be used to diminish a writer’s credit or rights, and the use of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited.

While copyright protections in this area remain unclear, the Copyright Office issued guidance on registering these works and determining which pieces are eligible for copyright protection. They also launched an initiative to evaluate copyright law and policy issues on literary, visual, audiovisual, and musical works. Additionally, congressional hearings have opened the door to potential legislation, including “considering amendments to the Copyright Act or other legislation.”

Disruption or Opportunity?

Many in the creative industries are cautiously optimistic about the promise of AI and some artists are embracing AI as a tool to push the boundaries of human creativity, productivity, and profits. For example, James Earl Jones signed over the rights for his “Darth Vader” vocal recordings from 1977 for future projects in the “Star Wars” franchise. AI will likely never replicate the authenticity and emotional depths of real artists, but those who leverage AI tools could acquire a competitive advantage to better grow the creative landscape and workforce.

Undoubtedly, generative AI will continue to bring profound transformation, unleashing new opportunities for human creativity and innovative potential. The recent labor negotiations in Hollywood illustrated how crucial policy implications are in the face of rapid technological change. The landmark agreements between unions and studios establish the most progressive AI protections in industry history symbolizing a positive step forward in addressing workforce, privacy, and copyright challenges in an era of AI-generated content.

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