The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has recently established new guidelines for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the entertainment industry. These guidelines were a significant point of contention during the recent contract negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the studios, which resulted in the longest strike in SAG's history. The new contract stipulates that companies must request consent before creating digital replicas of actors and must disclose what those replicas will be used for. This consent requirement also extends to the use of an actor's facial features in the creation of synthetic performers, which are digitally-created assets intended to create the impression of a natural performer. The rules also apply to deceased actors, with consent required from their heirs or beneficiaries. In terms of compensation, the agreement stipulates that using an actor’s digital likeness must be subject to the same pay rates as physical acting on set. Actors will also receive compensation for the creation and use of their AI replicas, including their use in any additional projects or other mediums. The agreement also includes protections for background actors, stating that digital replicas must not be used to meet the background counts for the day and will not be used to avoid the engagement of background actors. The contract also addresses the creation of "synthetic fake performers," which involve amalgamating features from different actors to create new virtual entities. Consent rights now extend to every individual whose likeness contributes to such digital constructs. Despite these guidelines and protections, the contract has been met with mixed reactions from SAG members. Some members, like actress and filmmaker Justine Bateman, have criticized the contract, arguing that it gives studios too much leeway to use AI to alter an actor’s performance and to use a “digital double” without consent or compensation under certain circumstances. On the other hand, SAG-AFTRA's leadership, including President Fran Drescher and Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, have defended the contract, arguing that it provides important protections for actors in an industry increasingly influenced by AI technology. These guidelines represent a significant step in addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by AI in the entertainment industry. As AI technology continues to advance, it is likely that these guidelines will continue to evolve to ensure the protection of actors' rights and interests.
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