Last Thursday (13), the Actors Union of the United States (known by the acronym SAG-AFTRA) went on strike. The reason for the strike is the concern with the use of artificial intelligence by the studios, which would lead to the precariousness of the works and exploitation of the image of the actors. In May, American screenwriters went on strike with the same concern.
According to SAG-AFTRA, popularly called the Hollywood Actors’ Union, the studios proposed in pre-strike negotiations that actors could have their images scanned and voices recorded — earning only a day’s pay. With this data, companies could “forever” use the image of actors, especially extras – and yes, other actors in smaller roles in films and series would also be harmed.
Now, the actors’ support for fellow screenwriters evolves, turning into a “general strike” in Hollywood against the common enemy, the AIs—which has already generated debates about the use of the images of artists from different segments, especially those who have died. With the strike of the two classes, productions and promotions will be interrupted in Hollywood.
“Deep fake” of actors would be a new economy for streaming
This “business model” would allow studios to make a “one-time purchase” of artists’ services, which would save on bills. With this, the various streaming platforms could keep their productions indefinitely in their catalog, since they would not have the “recurring” expenses – for example, paying image rights.
And since virtually every studio has its streaming, the precariousness of the works (and perhaps of the acting as a whole, but that’s a subject for another time and maybe another site) would be general: every actor would be subject to work in this way. Receiving the payment of “a day’s work”, in which his image (including voice) would be recorded for the whole and always.
In some cases, this is a positive. Val Kilmer used artificial intelligence to recreate her voice, lost after a tracheostomy that removed a tumor from her throat. But here we have a case of authorized procedure, for a specific work (Top Gun: Maverick) and with the actor still alive.
In the fifth Indiana Jones film, released this year, deep fake technology allows Harrison Ford to appear in his youthful (and digitized) version. This idea carries another risk: studios producing unnecessary sequences for films that ended well — which also involves the issue of “eternal ownership” of actors’ image.
Obviously, some actors have their images valued in the millions and a studio would have to shell a huge amount for a long-term “post-mortem” contract, even more so “forever.” This scenario doesn’t sound so impossible, but as stated earlier, this “eternal use” is a risk for lesser-known actors.
As much as the concern about the use of AI in productions is “recent”, following the advancement of editing technologies and deep fake, some artists have already banned the use of their images after they die.
Among these artists are: Whoopi Goldberg, singer and actress Maddona and Robin Williams. The latter is now deceased, but Williams left a will restricting the use of his image for 25 years after his death in 2014.
Actress Whoopi Goldberg said this week that her will, written 15 years ago, prohibits her image from being used in holograms after her passing. The same prohibition is in Madonna’s will.
Recently, the deep fake used by Volkswagen to recreate the singer Elis Regina also raises the debate about using image of deceased artists for advertising campaigns. The automaker had authorization from the family, but how would it be the case of personalities without living relatives?