The Future of Performance in an AI World: SAG-AFTRA Approves Landmark Deal to Protect Artists in the Age of Automation

The integration of AI in entertainment is an exciting yet complex development. The recent contractual updates with SAG-AFTRA mark a critical step in embracing these changes while safeguarding the rights and integrity of performers, heralding a new era in the industry.

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The entertainment industry stands at a crossroads as artificial intelligence (AI) propels revolutionary change in how content is created. With technology enabling digital replications of performers and even AI-generated “synthetic” performers, questions swirl regarding ethics, creative rights and the role of humans in a potentially automated future.

At this pivotal moment, SAG-AFTRA has taken a monumental step to protect performers through proposed contract provisions that ensure respect, consent and bargaining in any use of their vocal or visual likeness. If ratified, these agreements will enshrine groundbreaking protections at a time when performers’ rights hang in the balance.

By frontloading these issues, SAG-AFTRA is sending a clear message: the voices and identities of performers are not commodities for exploitation by AI without consent. As technology reshapes storytelling itself, performers will have a seat at the table to share in the prosperity.

The tentative deals contain vital gains across compensation, working conditions, diversity and new technologies. But make no mistake, their provisions on artificial intelligence may prove the most consequential for generations to come. By putting performer protections in place proactively, SAG-AFTRA is taking a stand for the principle that no matter how creative tools evolve, human artistry and agency should remain cherished and uncompromised.

As a performer, here are some highlights you should know:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Protections

The tentative agreement contains groundbreaking new provisions to address the use of AI to create or alter digital replications of a performer’s voice and/or likeness. The agreement addresses the growing use of AI in creating digital replicas and synthetic performers. This innovative technology allows for the creation of realistic digital characters, potentially reshaping casting and performance dynamics in the industry.

  • Consent and bargaining are required before a performer’s digital replica can be made or used. Payment for work time is due if image capture occurs on a separate day.
  • For employment-based digital replicas, compensation or residuals are due if the replica is used beyond what the original employment covered.
  • Use of independently created replicas portraying a recognizable performer requires consent and separate payment.
  • Protections govern AI-generated “synthetic” performers not based on any existing person. Notification and bargaining with the union are mandated before use.
  • Performers will have a voice in how replicas are utilized through required consent provisions and the ability to negotiate reuse fees.
  • Restrictions prevent your likeness from being exploited without permission. The agreement tackles this emerging issue head-on.

In addition, studios must meet semi-annually with the union to discuss intended uses of AI and efforts to mitigate bias. These innovative provisions put SAG-AFTRA at the forefront of shaping the future use of digital humans in entertainment.

Wage Increases

Minimum pay rates will rise 7% upon ratification, 4% in July 2024, and 3.5% in July 2025. This keeps pace with inflation and applies to minimums, residuals, penalties, allowances, and most other rates.

Protections for Auditions

New rules establish standards around self-tapes, including providing adequate time to prepare, limiting materials, banning nudity/stunts, and securing recordings confidentially. Virtual auditions are also covered.

Harassment Protections: Sexual harassment prevention is strengthened by requiring intimacy coordinators for nudity/simulated sex scenes upon request, prominent posting of anti-harassment policies, and better protections for background actors.

Streaming: The residuals structure now better reflects the value performers provide to streaming platforms, with bonuses for highly viewed titles and increasing payments in later exhibition years.

Pension & Health

Earnings ceilings rise significantly for employer contributions to the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan and pension plans. A new diversity study and travel fund are established.

Overall, the tentative deal makes substantial gains across compensation, working conditions, diversity, and new technology. It lays the groundwork for performers to share in the prosperity of the entertainment industry. I encourage you to vote yes on ratification. Reach out to SAG-AFTRA with any questions.

Looking ahead, AI promises to open new avenues in storytelling, special effects, and personalized content. However, it also necessitates careful navigation of legal and ethical terrains, as highlighted in the agreements. The integration of AI in entertainment is an exciting yet complex development. The recent contractual updates with SAG-AFTRA mark a critical step in embracing these changes while safeguarding the rights and integrity of performers, heralding a new era in the industry.

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