Let’s look at the deal that ended the Hollywood writers’ strike

2 days ago

Signs from the Hollywood writers' strike in 2007. Image: Asparagirl/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The proposed contract deals with many concerns, including the use of AI in Hollywood, along with new transparency rules for streaming services.

The Hollywood writers’ strike has stopped after more than four months, thanks to a new potential contract that appears to give in to many of the writers’ demands.

There were many issues raised among the massive strike organised by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) when it protested against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

The new agreement – or MBA – between the two parties shows that writers will get various benefits such as increased health and pension contributions, along with better compensation.

But it’s the technology side of the deal that is particularly interesting, as it includes new rules when it comes to using AI.

Rules around AI

One of the concerns raised during the Hollywood writers’ strike was that producers may start preferring AI-generated scripts over ones written by living writers, due to the potential cost benefits.

But under the new regulations, AI can’t be used to write or rewrite literary material and AI-generated content cannot be considered source material. The WGA said this means AI-generated material can’t be used to “undermine a writer’s credit or separated rights”.

Meanwhile, the new contract will allow writers to use AI to write scripts if they wish, but studios can’t force writers to use AI such as ChatGPT when performing services. This part of the contract appears to put the use of AI for scriptwriting under the control of writers instead of producers.

Producers must also disclose to the writer if any materials given to the writer have been generated by AI or incorporate AI-generated material.

Lastly, the WGA said it “reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by MBA or other law”.

Data streaming transparency

While the AI changes represent a major victory for Hollywood writers, other parts of the deal look like they will cause significant changes for streaming services.

A report earlier this month by the Los Angeles Times suggested that streaming sites are a black hole when it comes to viewer data, meaning people working on projects for sites like Netflix have no idea how well the projects are doing.

But the new deal means projects will have to share the total number of hours streamed for “self-produced, high-budget streaming programmes”, such as a Netflix original series.

These details will be shared under confidentiality agreements. but the WGA said it may share information with its membership “in aggregated form”. The deal will likely force new forms of transparency onto the large number of streaming services out there such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime.

Members will vote on the deal, with balloting to end on 9 October.

The Hollywood actors’ strike continues.

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Signs from the writers’ strike in 2007. Image: Asparagirl via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic