Hollywood union deal with music giants guards against AI use

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The proposed agreement with record labels mandates consent and compensation before releasing songs featuring digital replicas of artists’ voices.

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Hollywood union deal with music giants guards against AI use

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Entertainment industry workers have struck a preliminary agreement with top record labels like Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment to secure higher minimum wages and safeguards against using artificial intelligence (AI).

According to a statement on the website of the Hollywood actors’ union — the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) — the “Sound Recordings Agreement” covers the period from 2021 to 2026 and has received unanimous approval from SAG-AFTRA’s executive committee, representing about 160,000 actors and media personnel.

As the music industry faces the challenge of songs produced by generative AI, which allows internet users to easily replicate the voices of artists — frequently without the artists’ permission — the proposed agreement with record labels mandates consent and compensation before releasing songs featuring digital replicas of artists’ voices.

According to SAG-AFTRA, the terms “artist,” “singer” and “royalty artist” exclusively denote humans under this accord. The agreement also encompasses enhancements in health and retirement benefits, along with an expansion in the portion of streaming revenue subject to contributions.

A final vote for ratification by members is anticipated in the coming weeks.

The agreement comes as AI technology has become a significant concern in the entertainment sector, dominating discussions between SAG-AFTRA and major studios in 2023. Following months of strikes, negotiations concluded in November with a contract agreement.

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SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland believes that Music’s essence should perpetually stem from authentic human expression and lived experiences:

“This agreement ensures that our members are protected. While technology can enhance the creative process, the essence of music must always be rooted in genuine human expression and experience.”

In January, SAG-AFTRA reached another agreement with Replica Studios — an AI voice technology company — concerning the use of AI voices in video games. The agreement will provide performers with the right to consent and negotiate with the AI company, as well as the power to opt out of “continued use” of their voices in “new projects.”

AI holds immense potential in film, especially in virtual filmmaking. It offers lifelike sets and cost efficiency. With its greater creative flexibility and lower production costs, this technology has the potential to completely transform the filmmaking process. Despite its transformative power, the AI protection deal aims to ensure fair credit for industry contributors.

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