Those who have been following public discourse around the strike may be surprised to hear that AI makes up just a small fragment of the agreement. In fact, it isn’t until the very end of the contract that you will find terms related to AI (page 68 to be precise). Despite being the topic of contentious debate, artificial intelligence is just one of many areas in which the WGA sought - and won - protections for its members.
So what exactly are the new terms for AI’s use in writers rooms? Let’s break it down. We’ve extracted these points from the WGA’s complete Memorandum Of Agreement For The 2023 Wga Theatrical And Television Basic Agreement. The complete legal terms are included at the end of this article.
GAI, in the context of the WGA, refers to AI that learns from data patterns and can produce content, like written materials. It's not the same as traditional AI used for things like visual effects or operational tasks.
The WGA is clear: neither traditional AI nor GAI is considered a 'writer'. This means anything these systems produce won't be regarded as literary material under their agreements.
If a company gives a writer content produced by GAI to be used as a foundation for their writing:
For instance, if a writer is provided with a GAI-written screenplay and is asked to rewrite it, they must be compensated fairly, and the original GAI content doesn't influence their credit or rights.
Writers must follow company rules when using GAI. They also need the company's permission to use it. Companies have the power to decline the use of GAI, especially if it affects the work's copyright or exploitation potential.
Companies can't force writers to use GAI programs that create 'literary material'. However, they can require writers to use GAI for other purposes, like detecting copyright breaches.
Both the WGA and writers acknowledge the uncertain legal status surrounding GAI. The WGA retains the right to claim that using a writer's work to train or develop GAI systems might be an infringement of their rights or other laws.
Companies have agreed to meet with the WGA at least twice a year to discuss how they're using GAI in the film industry. The purpose is to ensure transparency and collaboration as the field evolves.
The WGA's stance prioritizes human writers' rights and contributions, ensuring they remain at the forefront of the industry. They've set guidelines for how GAI can be utilized, aiming for a harmonious balance between human creativity and technological advancements. To better understand the agreement - here are a few use cases, what scenarios are allowed under the new agreement's terms for generative AI, and what protections are in place for writers.
Scenario: A writer, struggling with writer's block, uses an AI tool to generate some plot ideas for a new screenplay.
Allowed: As long as the company is aware and agrees, the writer can use the AI-generated ideas as a base or inspiration for their screenplay.
Protection for Writers: If the writer uses these ideas, they must be informed that they came from an AI. Their compensation, credit, and rights cannot be affected by the fact that they used AI-generated content as inspiration.
Scenario: A film company provides a writer with a screenplay generated by an AI tool and requires them to rewrite or polish it.
Not Allowed: The company cannot force the writer to use an AI tool like ChatGPT to complete this task.
Protection for Writers: The company must disclose that the original screenplay was AI-generated. The writer's credit, rights, and compensation cannot be diminished based on the AI-origin of the material. This protects the writer's creative contribution and ensures they are recognized and compensated fairly.
Scenario: A writer finishes a screenplay and uses an AI tool to detect possible copyright infringements or unintentional similarities to other works.
Allowed: While the WGA guidelines are clear that AI cannot create literary material, they can be used for operational purposes like checking for plagiarism.
Protection for Writers: This usage ensures that the writer's content is unique and prevents potential legal disputes, all while not infringing upon the writer's creative process.
Scenario: A writer collaboratively works with an AI tool to co-write a novel, where the AI suggests dialogues and plot twists.
Allowed: With the company's consent, a writer can integrate AI suggestions into their work.
Protection for Writers: The finished product, despite benefiting from AI, is considered the writer's literary material, not AI-produced. The writer's rights, credits, and compensation cannot be affected by the AI's involvement.
Scenario: A film company wants to use a writer's past scripts to train a new AI to generate screenplays.
Not Allowed (potentially): According to the WGA, exploiting a writer's material to train or develop AI systems might infringe on their rights.
Protection for Writers: This clause protects the intellectual property of writers. It ensures their past work isn't used without proper compensation or recognition to potentially diminish the value of human writers in the future.
These use cases underline the WGA's efforts to codify enforcements that ensure AI tools complement, not replace, human writers, and that the rights and contributions of human writers are prioritized. For the complete excerpt of the new Basic Agreement's AI terms, you can read more below.