'Plagiarism machines': Hollywood writers and studios battle over AI's future

Members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) East picket outside Peacock Newfront streaming service offices, in New York City, U.S., May 2, 2023. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Hollywood screenwriters have penned science fiction scripts in which machines take over the globe for decades. Now, they are fighting to protect their livelihoods from robots.

The Writers Guild of America seeks to limit the use of artificial intelligence in creating film and television scripts. According to the guild, Hollywood studios battling to make streaming services profitable and coping with declining ad revenues have rejected this proposal and stated they would be open to discussing new technologies once a year.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, negotiating the contract for the studios, declined to comment through a spokesperson.

Monday's strike by Hollywood's film and television writers, the first in 15 years, was precipitated by a number of issues, including a dispute over artificial intelligence.

The debate over AI's role in the creative process will determine the future of entertainment for decades to come, despite being one of the last items described in a WGA summary of negotiating points, the majority of which concentrate on improving compensation in the streaming era.

John August, a member of the WGA negotiating committee and screenwriter, stated that writers have two concerns regarding AI.

"We don't want our content to feed them, nor do we want to edit their sloppy first drafts," he said.

At issue is a swiftly expanding, multifaceted technology that has taken over the global economy.

OpenAI's Dall-E, capable of creating realistic images, is being used in Hollywood to create animated short films with the assistance of OpenAI's Dall-E, which can remove wrinkles from the faces of aging actors. Some authors are experimenting with scriptwriting.

'Last Bastion'

Mike Seymour, co-founder of Motus Lab at the University of Sydney, who has a background in visual effects and artificial intelligence and has consulted with several studios, said, "The problem seems to be that we believed that creativity was the last bastion, the line in the sand, that would prevent machines from replacing humans in the workforce." "I would argue that this is merely an arbitrary notion that has captured the public's imagination."

AI can help writers overcome "the blank piece of paper phenomenon," according to Seymour, and it excels at "pantomime," which he defines as generating straightforward, blunt dialogue that lacks nuance.

Seymour stated, "I'm also not claiming that AI will become super intelligent and produce, you know, 'Citizen Kane,' because that would be absurd."

Writers worry that they will be marginalized or, at the very least, neglected.

According to Warren Leight, a screenwriter who served as the showrunner and executive producer of the NBC drama "Law & Order: SVU," artificial intelligence could generate jumbled writing.

"Rather than hiring you to complete a first draft, (studios) engage you to complete a second draft, which pays less. You should eliminate that immediately."

The union proposed that content generated by an artificial intelligence system such as ChatGPT could not be deemed "literary material" or "source material," terms already defined in their contract.

In practice, if a studio executive were to deliver a writer an AI-generated script to revise, the writer would not be eligible for a reduced rewrite or polish rate.

The union argues that using existing scripts to train artificial intelligence would open the door to the plunder of intellectual property.

"We call it the 'Nora Ephron problem,'" August said, alluding to the author of the romantic comedy hits "When Harry Met Sally" and "You've Got Mail."

"One could envision a studio training artificial intelligence on all of Nora Ephron's scripts and having it compose a comedy in her voice. Our proposals would prevent that from happening."

Ellen Stutzman, the primary negotiator for the WGA, stated that some members refer to AI as "plagiarism machines."

"We have made a reasonable proposal that the company keeps AI out of the television and film writing business and not attempt to replace writers," she explained.

Publish : 2023-05-03 10:33:00

Give Your Comments