Hollywood Unions Secure AI Safeguards in New Music Industry Agreement

Hollywood Unions Secure AI Safeguards in New Music Industry Agreement

Hollywood’s entertainment industry workers, represented by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), have reached a preliminary agreement with major record labels such as Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

This new “Sound Recordings Agreement” aims to address the emerging challenges posed by artificial intelligence (AI) in music production.

Key Provisions of the Agreement

The agreement, set to cover the period from 2021 to 2026, stipulates higher minimum wages for artists and introduces critical safeguards against the use of AI to replicate artists’ voices without consent.

Under this proposed deal, any release of songs featuring digital replicas of artists’ voices must first receive the artist’s consent and appropriate compensation. The terms “artist,” “singer,” and “royalty artist” are defined strictly as humans, emphasizing the importance of human creativity in music.

Health, Retirement, and Streaming Revenues

Beyond addressing AI concerns, the agreement also enhances health and retirement benefits for union members and expands the portion of streaming revenues subject to contributions.
This broad approach ensures that artists are supported not only in their creative endeavors but also in their personal and financial well-being.

Next Steps and Broader Industry Impact

The executive committee of SAG-AFTRA, which represents about 160,000 actors and media personnel, has unanimously approved the agreement.

A final ratification vote by the union members is expected in the coming weeks. This agreement is part of a broader discourse on the role of AI in entertainment, a topic that dominated negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and major studios throughout 2023.

Statements from Union Leadership

SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director and chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, commented on the essence of music and the role of human creativity, stating:

“This agreement ensures that our members are protected. While technology can enhance the creative process, the essence of music must always be rooted in genuine human expression and experience.”

Previous Agreements and Future Prospects

Earlier in January, SAG-AFTRA reached an agreement with Replica Studios, an AI voice technology company, regarding the use of AI voices in video games. This deal grants performers the right to consent and negotiate terms with the AI company, as well as the ability to opt out of their voices being used in new projects.

AI continues to hold immense potential across various sectors of the entertainment industry, particularly in virtual filmmaking, where it can create lifelike sets and reduce production costs.

However, as AI technology advances, the need for clear guidelines and protections like those negotiated in these agreements becomes increasingly important to ensure that human artists are fairly credited and compensated for their contributions.

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