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Hollywood studios reportedly want to recycle dead actors’ AI likenesses without family permission

‘We could not allow that language to stand.’

John Nacion via Getty Images

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing Hollywood performers, has reportedly responded to studios’ “last, best and final” offer to end the strike, rejecting clauses that would let them re-use AI-created likenesses of high-demand and deceased performers without consent. The union allegedly plans to make a counter-offer that removes the current AI-related language. “They can’t have that loophole to exploit performers,” a union-side source told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday. “We could not allow that language to stand.”

THR reports that The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) proposed to “secure AI scans” for Schedule F performers (union members earning more than $32,000 per TV episode or $60,000 per film). The studios’ suggested deal would require them to pay once to scan the likenesses of Schedule F performers without paying for their use or re-use — essentially giving them eternal rights to their likenesses after paying once upfront.

An even more striking detail is that the way the proposal was written appears to advocate for limitless use of dead performers’ AI-created likenesses without proper permission. “The language currently in the AMPTP’s offer would see the studios and streamers secure the right to use scans of deceased performers without the consent of their estate or SAG-AFTRA,” writes THR. SAG-AFTRA reportedly wants to attach a consent requirement and compensation for each time a studio or streamer re-uses performers’ AI scans. However, after this part of the dispute became public, Variety reported that the union “reached a common understanding” with AMPTP on the “thorny issues” like AI consent after an actor dies.

“We think it’s not just reasonable but is absolutely vital to the sustainability of the performance industry,” a source told THR before news of the modified offer broke. “[The Schedule F AI language in the AMPTP’s proposal] behooves them to have you dead in that they need consent when you’re alive but not when you’re dead.”

SAG-AFTRA reportedly updated union members about negotiations on Monday, assuring them it won’t agree to a lousy contract. “Please know every member of our TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee is determined to secure the right deal and thereby bring this strike to an end responsibly,” the union wrote to its members. “There are several essential items on which we still do not have an agreement, including AI. We will keep you informed as events unfold.”

Update, November 8, 2023, 1:32 PM ET: This story has been updated to note a new Variety report that claims the two sides have now resolved their differences over the AI rights of deceased actors.