The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has recently released a summary of its contract, and it’s being hailed as historic. The contract includes significant pay increases and provisions regarding artificial intelligence (AI). This development has the potential to reshape the landscape of the entertainment industry, particularly in the streaming sector.
One of the most significant wins for the WGA is the pay increases. The contract ensures substantial pay raises across the board, with a particular focus on “high budget subscription video on demand” platforms like Netflix, as well as streaming films. The WGA aims to ensure that writers of streaming features receive a minimum compensation increase of 18% for films budgeted at $30 million or more, along with a 26% increase in residual base.
Another crucial aspect of the contract is the regulation of AI in the industry. The WGA has successfully secured provisions to prevent AI from writing or rewriting literary material. It also prohibits the use of AI-generated content as a source material. These measures protect writers from being exploited by executives who use AI tools to generate ideas that writers are then expected to turn into full scripts without owning the rights to the material.
Additionally, the WGA now reserves the right to assert that the exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by the contract or other applicable laws. This provision allows the WGA to challenge any potential misuse of their work in AI training if the need arises. It may also be linked to proposed laws in California that seek to regulate the use of materials for training AI systems.
While the limitations on AI in the contract have drawn attention, Katharine Trendacosta, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, emphasizes that the real game changer is data transparency. The contract requires studios to provide the WGA with accurate data on the performance of their self-produced high-budget streaming programs. This data includes the total number of hours streamed domestically and internationally. By receiving this data, the WGA aims to bring more transparency to the streaming industry, allowing for better evaluation of a project’s success and fair compensation for writers.
The lack of data transparency in the streaming industry has been a longstanding challenge. Often, industry insiders had limited insight into how well their projects were performing, leading to uncertainties in terms of compensation. With the new contract, streamers like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon won’t be able to manipulate data or provide meaningless self-referential rankings to the WGA. While the release of specific data may be subject to non-disclosure agreements, the WGA will be able to provide aggregated data that sheds light on the business of streaming more comprehensively than ever before.
This shift towards data transparency is crucial for writers and industry stakeholders. It ensures that projects’ success and cancellation decisions are based on accurate information rather than subjective measures. Moreover, it highlights the importance of objective data in evaluating the popularity and commercial viability of streaming content.
The streaming industry has relied on data opacity to suit its narrative, often crafting carefully selected data to present a favorable story. With the introduction of real, verifiable data available to the WGA membership, streamers will face a more challenging task of manipulating the narrative to their advantage. This development affirms the power of data in the entertainment industry and is a significant step towards more fairness and accountability.
In conclusion, the recent contract between the WGA and studios marks a historic moment for writers and the entertainment industry as a whole. The contract brings significant pay increases, ensures limitations on the use of AI, and promotes data transparency in the streaming sector. These developments aim to protect writers’ rights, enable fair compensation, and offer a more accurate understanding of the streaming industry’s performance. As the industry adapts to these changes, it is expected that the balance of power will shift, placing more value on the contributions of writers and fostering a more equitable environment for creative professionals.