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  • Robert Farago

Will Hollywood Wave Goodbye to AI?

The Writers Guild of America strikes to ban AI scripts

Hollywood writers are on strike. The media coverage is centering on negotiations over Artificial Intelligence. Understandably. The AI tsunami is the scary Skynet story that keeps on giving. And yes Virginia, AI is an existential threat to Hollywood writers. So what are the Writers Guild of America’s actual AI-related demands?

Regulate use of artificial intelligence on MBA covered projects: AI can’t write or rewrite literary material; can’t be used as source material; and MBA-covered material can’t be used to train AI.

The WGA wants Big Entertainment (a.k.a., the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers or AMPTP) to pinkie swear promise that it won’t use AI to write or rewrite a script.

This hard line in the sand against AI – part of a wider set of demands – is guaranteed to earn WGA members public sympathy. Don’t let the sun go down on us! We’re all sensitive people, with so much to give! Resist the rise of the machines! O.K. but –

Big E has a good reason the tell the WGA to FOAD: money. AI output can’t be copyrighted. No copyright, no author’s payment. At all. Ever. For anything.

What’s more, Chat GPT doesn’t have an ego or an agent. It doesn’t have a substance abuse problem. It never misses a deadline. Press a button and presto! One huge above the line cost, gone!

While Big E will probably capitulate to the WGA’s no-AI writing or rewriting demand, they’ve got to find it galling. Everyone knows WGA writers will use AI to write and rewrite scripts.

Why wouldn’t they? As the co-founder of the non-AI certification service Union, I’m here to say there’s no foolproof way to enforce a no-AI clause on either side in this dispute.

The beaming content creator above is one of the dozens of pro-AI Illuminati helping writers defeat AI detectors. WGA writers using the technology to violate their own technological ban to get ahead?

Ironic, yes. Predictable, yes. What are the odds Big E will look the other way? Hint: Hollywood makes a nest of vipers look like a Tempurpedic mattress.

And sign an affidavit attesting that their material was not ai-derived or edited. and we’re working on a gold cert “walled garden” software/hardware solution.>and sign an affidavit attesting that their material was not ai-derived or edited. and we’re working on a gold cert “walled garden” software/hardware solution.>

The WGA’s demand that Big E not use AI as “source material” is a lot more defensible – or so you’d think. Screenwriter John August (Charlie’s Angles and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) outlines his org’s position.

“The WGA says it’s imperative that ‘source material’ can’t be something generated by an AI, either. This is especially important because studios frequently hire writers to adapt source material (like a novel, an article, or other IP) into new work to be produced as TV or films,” August added. “It’s very easy to imagine a situation in which a studio uses AI to generate ideas or drafts, claims those ideas are ‘source material,’ and hires a writer to polish it up for a lower rate.”
“The immediate fear of AI isn’t that us writers will have our work replaced by artificially generated content. It’s that we will be underpaid to rewrite that trash into something we could have done better from the start.

“Rewrite that trash?” Meow! Hang on. In this Brave New World of AI, a simple “no-AI source material” stipulation isn’t so simple.

Who’s to know whether and how much AI was involved in the creation of the “source material”? How does the WGA feel about members adapting a screenplay based on a book written by AI?

The WGA’s final AI demand – members’ material can’t be used to train AI – is aimed at stopping Big E from cloning a WGA writer (like fashion model cloning).

First, it’s too late. AI’s Large Language Models have already vacuumed-up everything ever posted on the net, including scripts. Asking Chat GPT, Bard or Bing to spit out a script "in the style of Quentin Tarantino” is totally doable right now.

Second, If Big E acquiesces to the no-AI script demand, there’s no need to worry about that, is there? Plenty ‘o irony though. WGA members will clone themselves with AI then hit up Big E for writing credit and compensation.

Bottom line: WGA writers will use AI to write and rewrite their scripts, but they don’t want Big Entertainment to have the same ability. The WGA strike is just another dog-eat-dog power play in a carnivorous canine community.

The strike will be settled – Hollywood bans AI! – and nothing will appear to change. Underneath, everything will change, for all concerned. Watch this space.

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