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Hollywood attempts to set AI rules with DGA deal

Jun 12, 2023
Illustration of a director's chair with the word "director" spelled partially using binary.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The labor deal between the Directors Guild of America and Hollywood's studios regarding the use of AI indicates the industry wants to keep its options on the table.

Why it matters: Generative AI has quickly shot to the top of the list of issues that need to be addressed between Hollywood and its labor unions.

Details: The studios' deal with the DGA, which still has to be ratified by its members, is the first labor agreement to feature specific language on AI. Along with agreeing to meet twice a year regarding future uses of AI, the deal includes:

  • Duties performed by DGA members must be assigned to a person, and GAI (Generative Artificial Intelligence) does not constitute a person.
  • Employers may not use GAI in connection with creative elements without consultation with the director or other DGA-covered employees.

The big picture: The studios are betting the deal with the DGA provides a framework for its eventual deals with the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild.

  • So far, it's only flamed the rhetoric coming from the WGA, which is entering its seventh week of striking, with members arguing that the DGA didn't get any meaningful protections.
  • The deal with the DGA is purposely vague and open to heavy interpretation, largely because it's still hard to see how a director's job can be replicated by machines.
  • That's not the case with the writers and actors, who are very fearful of studios using chatGPT to write or edit scripts or deepfake technology to replicate an actor's performance.

What they're saying: Entertainment lawyers argue this was likely the best the DGA could do, even as they see ways for studios to find loopholes.

  • "It signals a path, at least for the WGA, to reach resolution on AI," Simon Pulman, partner and co-chair of Pryor Cashman's Media + Entertainment and Film, TV + Podcast Groups.
  • "Until we have the era of fully AI cyborgs, and the precursor to Skynet, of course AI can't do [a director's job] because a person is physically present. And that's a little bit of where it's easier for the DGA."
  • The DGA "is doing what it can right now to at least guarantee that it has a seat at the table," says Matt Bilinsky of Weinberg Gonser Frost.

Yes, but: "To me, the thing that will jump out to each and probably every lawyer in the country, but certainly any entertainment lawyer, is consultation. We use consultation or meaningful consultation quite frequently, but nobody can really define what it means," Pulman says.

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