The Hollywood writers’ strike continues into its third week, and tensions remain high. Picket lines are filled with shouting, bullhorns, and increasingly creative protest tactics, such as one striker who installed a freight train horn on their car and circled Disney’s offices with it blaring. Amid the chaos, one issue looms particularly large: the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and the impact it could have on the future of the entertainment industry.
As writers, the strikers are acutely aware of the implications of AI for their profession. They spend their days imagining all the ways the world could end, including the rise of killer robots straight out of science fiction films like Terminator and the Matrix. And with tech giants like OpenAI openly admitting that they don’t fully understand the implications of their creations, the writers have reason to be concerned.
But their worries go beyond just killer robots. They’re also worried about the impact of AI on the creative arts, specifically in terms of copyright law. OpenAI has faced criticism for hoovering up vast amounts of creative work, including writing, music, and art, without consent or compensation. And while they’re happy to talk about regulating AI, they seem less interested in paying artists for the work that powers their machine learning algorithms.
In recent weeks, hearings on AI and copyright law have taken place in Washington D.C., and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been there making their voices heard alongside other creatives. They’re fighting for the right of human authors to be protected by copyright law, and highlighting the fact that AI is a threat not just to their livelihoods, but to the very existence of the entertainment industry as we know it.
The film and television industry is on the cusp of being “Napsterfied,” the strikers argue. Tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook have already absorbed vast amounts of free content in the form of user-generated videos, memes, and more. And with AI getting better at generating its own content, the danger for writers, musicians, and other creatives is that their work will be devalued to the point of worthlessness.
It’s a bleak picture, but the writers strike is a powerful reminder that change can come from collective action. By speaking out and marching together, the strikers are showing the power of creative workers to shape the future of their industry. And as the debate over AI and copyright law rages on, their voices will continue to be heard. The question is whether the tech giants and the Hollywood studios will listen.