The strike has brought the production of many shows to a standstill when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) laid out their list of strike demands, chief among which was the studio’s agreement not to use artificial intelligence to write scripts. Specifically, the guild has two requirements: first, they say that “literary material,” including screenplays and synopses, must be generated by humans, not AI; and second, they insist that “source material” is not AI-generated.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios, rejected the proposal. They countered that they were willing to hold an annual meeting to discuss technological advances. Alarm bells were ringing when the WGA saw an existential threat to their existence and Hollywood was already planning for it.
Writers who adapt “source material” such as comic books or novels into screenplays are typically paid far less than they would be paid to create original literary material. Production studios could potentially save a lot of money by using AI tools to generate an outline, or first draft, of an original story and then having humans “adapt” it into a screenplay.
Many industries have embraced the workflow of “first drafts” generated by AI, which are then punched by humans. The WGA says it’s acceptable for its writers to use AI as a tool: There will essentially be a robot in the writers’ room, with writers supplementing their craft with AI-generated copies, but AI won’t completely replace their work.
Everyone seems to agree that an AI will never be able to program the next season of White Lotus or Succession, but lower brow shows are easily imitated by AI. Law and order, for example, is an oft-cited example. Not just because it’s formulaic, but because the AI was trained on massive datasets of copyrighted content, and there were 20 seasons of Law and Order for the AI to ingest. As AI technology becomes more and more advanced, who knows what it can do? Chat GPT was originally released last November, and as of this writing we are using GPT-4, a more powerful and exponentially evolving version of the platform.
The studio push to expand the use of artificial intelligence is not without risks. The Copyright Office has been somewhat equivocal in determining that AI-generated art is not protected. In a recent policy statement, the office said copyright would only protect certain aspects of works thought to have been created by humans, thereby partially protecting works generated by AI. So the better the AI - the more it helps weed out human writers – the weaker the copyright protections for studios/networks.
Whether an artificial intelligence work infringes the copyright of the original work is an issue currently in litigation Two lawsuits against Stability AIcreated Stable Diffusion (an AI tool with an impressive ability to convert text into images, which some call the most The largest art robberies in history). Some have questioned whether the humans who wrote the original episodes will be compensated, and the answer is probably not. In most cases, the screenplay is likely to be a rental and owned by the studio.
If the studio owns the underlying script, what happens to the original content if the studio puts copyrighted content into a machine that turns out to produce non-copyrighted content? Can you use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) or sue someone who copied it? At the time of writing, there are no clear answers to these questions.
There are legal questions and deeper philosophical questions about making art. As artificial intelligence advances and humans become more robotic, will art become indistinguishable? Prolific Twitter users say they use 280 characters to think about their thoughts. Perhaps our readers can set their time in increments of 6 minutes, or 0.1 hours. Also, maybe our readers can understand that their industry is being threatened by automation. Generative AI puts 44 percent of legal jobs at risk, according to a recent Goldman Sachs report.
There is no doubt that artificial intelligence can make some aspects of work more efficient. But, as anyone who has ever filed a lawsuit or negotiated a settlement in a difficult situation (like a writers strike) will tell you, there are a lot of emotions involved.