The Writers Guild of America on Tuesday released the details of its new contract with the studios and the Hollywood writers appeared to get virtually everything they wanted, including better protections against the use of artificial intelligence and more transparency over how well their streaming shows and movies have performed.
The new contract, which ends a strike that has lasted nearly five months, shutting down the pipeline of scripted programming, will also include an increase in minimum pay, better health and pension contributions, a guarantee of more writers. There’s also detail about higher residuals for streaming both domestically and internationally. Union members voted to approve the contract on late Tuesday, officially ending the strike.
The terms better address the changing dynamics of the entertainment business, which has gone through a huge transformation with the shift to streaming and the rise of Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video. The industry is also wrestling with another potential revolution with the rise of artificial intelligence. In both cases, the writers’ union was able to extract better protection from the studios in what could be a precedent for labor negotiations in other fields.
The restrictions around AI are particularly interesting, with the new contract barring the studio from using AI to write or rewrite literary material, while any AI-generated content will not be considered source material, and can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit. A writer, meanwhile, can use AI to help with their work, but the studio needs to consent and provide them with applicable policies.
The studios also can’t force a writer to use AI software like ChatGPT to create a script, and must disclose if any material given to a writer has been generated by AI or used some AI-generated material. The union also has the right to bar the studios from using writers’ material to train an AI system.
The terms offer a sort of precedent as other industries wrestle with how to responsibly incorporate AI into their workflow. The new generation of AI systems, led by ChatGPT, could conceivably replace writers, coders, sales people and other jobs if these kinds of guidelines aren’t put in place.
On the data side, the companies have agreed to provide writers with more data, including the number of hours streamed, both domestically and internationally, for its original productions. The writers were seeking this kind of insight to get a better sense of whether they were being compensated adequately. Companies like Netflix have already begun to disclose some of that data publicly, although they’ve been limited to the top performers on the site.