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As part of an ongoing strike, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is attempting to limit the use of generative AI when developing scripts for films and television, according to Reuters. The worries come at a time when many people are concerned about how technology like ChatGPT may affect the economy.
The WGA is currently on strike for the first time in 15 years, and the reason for the strike extends beyond AI. But specifically, Reuters reports that WGA writers have two main concerns about writing automation, citing screenwriter and WGA negotiating committee member John August: They don’t want their work to be used as training data for AI systems, and they don’t want to be required to fix AI-generated “sloppy first draughts.”
That’s because WGA writers are battling to ensure that a ChatGPT-generated first draught would not be considered “literary material” or “source material,” which are phrases outlined in their contract. Additionally, authors who are hired to polish first draughts are paid at a lower rate.
On Twitter, screenwriter C. Robert Cargill expressed similar concerns, writing, “The immediate fear of AI isn’t that us writers will have our work replaced by artificially generated content. It’s that we will be underpaid to rewrite that trash into something we could have done better from the start. This is what the WGA is opposing and the studios want.”
In order to prevent potential IP theft, the WGA also claims that training AI systems shouldn’t employ current scripts. Ellen Stutzman, the head of the WGA’s negotiations, claimed that some members have referred to AI as “plagiarism machines.”
Hollywood studios have so far rejected the WGA’s suggestions and have instead offered to hold yearly discussions about emerging technology. The outcome of these negotiations is still undetermined because the strike is still going on, but it’s an important illustration of the challenges that arise with introducing new technology, like generative AI, to an already established creative industry.
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While legal disputes over allegations of plagiarism in the training of ChatGPT and other AI models are still pending, the models take in millions of documents that have been illegally scraped from the Internet. Large language models (LLMs) can produce new content by recombining statistical “knowledge” about those works in creative ways.