The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is on strike after six weeks of attempting to negotiate with major entertainment companies under the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The strike is the first in Hollywood to occur in 15 years, coming at an unprecedented moment when writers are negotiating the use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT with the studios. The WGA has proposed to regulate the use of AI on union projects, stating that AI can’t write or rewrite literary material, and can’t be used as source material or for AI training. The AMPTP rejected this proposal, insisting that there would be annual meetings to discuss “advancements in technology.”
Since the strike began, several writers have been vocal about their concerns that relying on generative AI tools could become an industry standard and devalue the role of writers. Quinton Peeples, a screenwriter and producer, commented that the desire to use AI to replace screenwriters was a symptom of the larger problem the guild was trying to solve. He noted that companies do not value writers and their work. John August, a screenwriter best known for writing Charlie’s Angles and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, said that the immediate fear of AI is that writers will be underpaid to rewrite AI-generated content, resulting in poor-quality writing.
Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill tweeted that “AI-generated material isn’t something that’s going to become a factor in a few years. It’s here now. It’s lucky that we’re negotiating our contract this year and not next year, before these systems become widely entrenched.” In 2021, Microsoft researchers acknowledged in a paper that GPT-4 has trouble distinguishing between true facts and guesses and personalizing outputs to users. GPT-4 also tends to make far-fetched conceptual leaps and makes up facts that aren’t in its training data. It’s very sensitive to prompts, inherits prejudices and biases from its training data, and is filled with misinformation and bias.
The use of generative AI systems is already facing issues with copyright. Getty Images has filed a lawsuit against Stability AI, the company behind the text-to-image generator Stable Diffusion for using a dataset containing more than 12 million photos from Getty to train its AI model. Artists and writers are also rallying behind the striking employees, and many are calling for an update to intellectual property (IP) laws and regulations for AI companies.
Furthermore, union writers are also concerned about the exploitation of underpaid foreign workers responsible for training, moderating, and upkeep of many of the world’s largest AI models. AI systems are a lot less automated than they are often portrayed, and the emphasis on efficiency and speeding production has consequences for workers. Many are calling for a thoughtful conversation on the realities of the use of AI in the entertainment industry and the possible consequences.