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Fight and Be Steamrolled or Engage to Set Limits 

At the start of 2023, as both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA were hurtling toward landmark strikes, if you had asked any actor, writer or musician what the biggest threat to their job was, they would have said fair streaming compensation. Ask them the same question now, as 2024 is revving up, and you’ll receive one uniform answer: artificial intelligence.   

The first tremors rumbled through the industry when authentic-sounding voice recordings produced by generative AI were used to make songs. Then the earthquake came in the shape of OpenAI’s Sora, which creates hyperrealistic clips from just a couple of text prompts.  

Throughout the entertainment sector, there is understandable trepidation about these developments — and a self-protective urge to fight the coming AI wave. However, in portraying AI as an existential threat and resolving to fend off its role in the industry, Hollywood is hamstringing itself as well as fighting the inevitable.   

If the media and entertainment industries want to safeguard jobs, guarantee fair compensation for workers, protect IP rights and thrive alongside the coming waves of generative AI, then they need to engage with regulators. The irony is those regulators want to talk not to doom-mongers but to those with tangible, constructive and productive ideas on how AI can be rolled out responsibly. 

To get these protections into legislation, creatives need to be in the room with the regulatory bodies, but they’ll only get a foot in the door if they’re packing a blueprint for the responsible, productive and positive use of AI in media and entertainment. 

If they’re determined to fight it tooth and nail, they’ll just be frozen out, and any AI regulations will be determined by those who are in the room — specifically, Big Tech corporations.

SEE ALSO: Sora Videos Mistaken for Real Footage in Survey 

Ceding territory to Big Tech would be a worst-case scenario for the entertainment industry. Jobs would be lost, IP would be mined, and compensation would be minimal. And sadly, the industry has set itself on this path. 

Still, it’s not too late to reverse course. Media and entertainment are two of the most dynamic, creative and forward-thinking sectors in the economy. And they’re full to the brim with innovative thoughts on integrating AI, which in turn will create new forms of creativity and serve as a lightning rod for investment. 

The U.S. and U.K. have staked out their position as light-touch regulatory environments for AI innovation and commerce. They want the investment and capital that AI will bring and are luring in Big Tech by promising a safe haven from the EU’s “toughest” regulation framework in the world. 

While those in entertainment won’t be able to change this, the industry can harness its ingenuity to shape the form these changes take and thus put guardrails in place. They just need to engage regulators with a vision for a thriving creative sector built on the twin pillars of authentic human creativity and AI-powered dynamism.   

One starting point for what this might look like would be the recent SAG-AFTRA deal with the major record labels, which mandates consent and compensation for any song that uses a digital replica of an artist’s voice.   

This is obviously a negotiation between workers and corporations, not legislators, but it’s a good starting point. Guardrails like this provide certainty — and investors like certainty. Hollywood can give government regulators this same assurance by building out a roadmap for AI’s role, and principals will find they are in a far stronger position from which to incorporate protections for workers, IP, compensation and eventually a creative sector that works alongside, not against, artificial intelligence. 

And yet the risks are too high to leave this up to Big Tech. The entertainment industry needs to force its voice into the conversation around AI safety.   

By trying to keep films, music and writing free from AI, creatives are leaving themselves vulnerable to the whims of corporations whose plans aren’t likely to include comprehensive protections for the entertainment sector. And they will have the ears of U.S. and U.K. regulators. 

Still, the recent SAG-AFTRA deal can serve as a springboard to show government regulators a blueprint for how AI might be deployed in a productive way. This would give Hollywood a better seat at the table in the next round of policy discussions.   

Tim Levy is founder and CEO of Twyn, a novel AI-enabled educational and entertainment content platform. He was previously founder and CEO of Future Capital Partners, where he led the structuring of deals to finance over 600 films, including the Pirates of the Caribbean and Iron Man franchises. 

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