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SAG-AFTRA Under Fire For Using AI Image Post-2023 Hollywood Strikes

While the reasoning behind the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike was multifaceted, one prominent disagreement between the actors' union and the AMPTP, representing producers, was about the use of AI in film production. What worried actors, in particular, was the ability for studios to obtain the rights to their digital likenesses and use them in perpetuity without necessarily consulting said actors. In fact, ironing out details about AI was one of the final points of contention holding up the deal that SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP eventually struck.

Given that SAG-AFTRA worked hard to establish new restrictions for AI use in Hollywood, users on X, formerly known as Twitter, were shocked when the union's official account posted an image with AI components. The offending post is promoting the 2024 Labor Innovation & Technology Summit, which consists of a series of panels about labor, entertainment, and technology held in conjunction with the CES trade show in Las Vegas. Accompanying a link and some text describing the summit is the digital likeness of a woman facing an artificial being of some sort, somewhat resembling the robots in the 2004 "I, Robot" film.

Beyond just SAG-AFTRA's recent history with AI, some users on the X platform highlighted the fact that the very summit this post is promoting is about the ethical use of technology. Implicitly, then, they're accusing SAG-AFTRA of hypocrisy.

Users on the X platform are unhappy with SAG-AFTRA's AI image for a variety of reasons

One of the most widely circulated criticisms of SAG-AFTRA's tweet comes courtesy of Karla Ortiz, whose credits as an artist include work on "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and "Avengers: Endgame," among other blockbuster films. "The summit is also co-sponsored by @IATSE. Does this mean visual workers, whom IATSE represents, are ok to exploit & replace," she asked in her post. Then, in a follow-up tweet, she confirmed that IATSE — the Hollywood union representing workers in various technical fields — was unaware of the AI image, before adding that the normalization of AI imagery could hurt upcoming IATSE contract negotiations.

Some users argued outright that SAG-AFTRA's behavior is hypocritical. "The hypocrisy on display here is disgusting – and the thoughtlessness of it is shocking," wrote artist Tyler Stone. Meanwhile, some users like @gr8jobjeremy described the move as unsurprising after finding the protections against AI in the recent contract SAG-AFTRA negotiated with the AMPTP to be inadequate.

Plenty of users who likewise work on films or as artists in some capacity, including @HellyonWhite and @BrendonNorth, simply characterized the move as disappointing. It's worth noting that an unnamed insider told Deadline that the image wasn't wholly AI-generated, but designed by humans with AI assistance. Whatever the case may be, the unhappiness it caused is widespread.