The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) remained on strike several months, and one of the main sticking points was the use of artificial intelligence in the film industry. While artificial intelligence has been hailed in many industries for its ability to make workers’ jobs easier, in creative industries such as film, critics are worried that it could have long-lasting and damaging consequences.

Why Hollywood is Concerned About the Proliferation of AI

The main point of contention in the writers’ strikes was fair compensation and ethical treatment for creative professionals. When you throw the role of automation into the mix with the adoption of artificial intelligence in the industry, there’s even more of an ethical conversation to be had around labor rights. Those advocating for the fair treatment of writers and other creatives in Hollywood should also advocate for the establishment of ethical use standards for AI in the industry.

It’s also important that the use of artificial intelligence comes from a place of equal representation and diversity, as one of the main concerns many critics have about AI is the bias it can exhibit. As writers advocate for more inclusive storytelling, it’s essential that any artificial intelligence programs they use be programmed and trained by diverse data and development teams to prevent substantial bias.

Furthermore, there should be a movement towards collective action in the development of these artificial intelligence tools. Just as writers are coming together to advocate for their rights, they must also come together to support the development of ethical AI. For artificial intelligence to be used ethically and effectively in Hollywood, all stakeholders — including researchers, developers, policymakers and creators — must unite to establish standards for the use of AI.

Of course, as in every industry, those in Hollywood are concerned about the potential economic implications of AI. The question on everyone’s mind is “Will writers lose their jobs to artificial intelligence?” The ethical use of artificial intelligence in Hollywood will depend on the principles of economic fairness, where writers and performers are not replaced by AI, but rather supplemented with the technology as a tool to make their jobs easier and more productive.

How AI, Ownership and Fair Use Present a Unique Challenge for Hollywood

One of the main obstacles that has ignited the vitriol over the use of artificial intelligence in Hollywood is the question of ownership and fair use. Currently, the WGA’s rules are structured to where only humans can create literary and source material, and therefore receive credit and residuals. The argument has been made that a writer who uses an AI model should still receive credit for the work, but this opens the door to a completely different problem.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that artificial intelligence models base their responses on pre-existing data, meaning these models have substantial potential to commit copyright infringement — even if unintentional. For example, if a writer uses a generative AI model to generate ideas, there exists a possibility that the ideas they’re presented with could be drawn from inputs from other users.

Part of the responsibility to avoid copyright infringement by AI is the implementation of certain guardrails for its use. Many companies in other industries have prohibited the use of ChatGPT and similar platforms at work to prevent the leakage of proprietary or confidential data, so why should the same principles not be true for writers working with copyrighted intellectual property? If AI is to become accepted in Hollywood, protections must be put in place to ensure that it doesn’t contribute to copyright infringement.

On a similar note, measures must be taken to ensure that creators are given proper attribution and residuals when their work is used for the training of an artificial intelligence model, or a model that draws data from their work. This involves creating a process where the data fed into and produced by an AI can be structured, such that it can be tracked to the page (or even paragraph) of the literary material being used as a source.

Other measures that must be taken to ensure the responsible use of artificial intelligence in Hollywood include: 

  • The establishment of repositories for scripts and actors’ images
  • The creation of standard APIs with access controls that allow creators to see and control what data AI models can access, 
  • The formation of a self-regulatory organization to establish and enforce ethical guidelines and standards for AI deployment. 

These steps will ensure that creators are held accountable for their use of artificial intelligence and the consequences it may have.

Although writers are understandably concerned about their future in an industry soon to be rocked by the development of artificial intelligence, they need not fear the proliferation of this technology. Instead, they should advocate for ethical standards for its use, which will allow them to take advantage of the tool’s potential without having to face the consequences of its misuse.