Concerns of Members of the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America

Concerns of Members of the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America

Hollywood is coming to a screeching halt as many actors have started a new strike against major production companies, following shortly after the Writers Guild of America initiated their own strike. One of the many concerns both camps on strike have relates to the use of artificial intelligence. Actors are concerned AI will be used to generate their likeness as an actor without permission or compensation. Writers are concerned that artificial intelligence will be used to create stories and ultimately limit the need for writers. However, one of the many benefits to having individuals write scripts is that production companies are able to have them registered with the U.S. Copyright office as a literary work.

What becomes problematic with a script that is generated by AI? The ownership of the work may pose more questions than solutions. For example, would the owner be the production company, or would it be the person who created the AI? What happens if most of the material used by AI came from other works? Will there be viable claims for copyright infringement? How can you sue for copyright infringement when the creator is a computer-generated artificial intelligence code? 

The purpose of copyright is to protect an individual’s creative expression of their artistry produced. Thus, a writer for the WGA has a very strong interest, for copyright purposes, to diminish the role AI plays in creating scripts. They want to keep their jobs, know that their prior work is being used by a computer-generated system to create new work and so much more.

While the writers who are worried about being replaced by AI have a pragmatic copyright claim, the actors protesting similar issues have a much more difficult claim to make for copyrights sake. However, well-known celebrities in the past have tried to use the Lanham Act to argue that the use of their likeness without permission was a violation of their right of privacy. Despite the attempts to make such an argument, the plaintiffs tend to be unsuccessful. Courts have restricted the use of the Lanham Act for the purposes of privacy and likeness when applicable to celebrities. 

With the evolution of artificial intelligence encroaching on many of the jobs allowing for creativity and IP protection, more must be done to protect the writers and actors, even if it means overturning prior decisions. 

By: Rebekah Pollner, Legal extern at ArtWorks Incubator and J.D. Candidate at Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. 

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