Chief SAG-AFTRA Negotiator Says AMPTP Studios Set AI Traps in Actor Deals for Top Franchises: ‘Devil’s in the Details’

SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland revealed that AMPTP studios appear to have been sneakily setting up artificial intelligence traps in principal franchise actors’ contracts through clauses in the deals.

Crabtree-Ireland made his remarks on Friday during a live taping of IndieWire’s podcast “Screen Talk” at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.

Crabtree-Ireland, who joined SAG-AFTRA in 2000, opened up about his background as a former criminal prosector and how he’s having a déjà vu-like feeling when it comes to sorting through AMPTP and its seemingly stealthy tactics to get over on actors in their contracts with A.I.

“If an actor is going to be asked to read that their image or likeness can be used through a digital replica, they need to know exactly what it’s going to be used for, how it’s going to be used, and they need to be able to say yes or no to that,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “The company’s idea of consent was, ‘Well, we can bury in a sentence on Page 12 of a contract that says you give your consent for any use ever in the future in any way the company ever wants without further discussion.’ That is not consent.”

Crabtree-Ireland added, “The devil’s in the details with A.I.”

A.I. is one of the biggest issues for actors in the strike, among many others. In short, actors don’t want to be replaced by the new technology and want to be protected against it in the event a company wanted to use their likeness or image outside of what was agreed upon. While some productions are hiring background actors, using them once and then owning their image for continuous use, principal actors starring in franchise projects are also being targeted.

“Let’s say you got hired for a day, or maybe even a week, to be a minor character in a Marvel movie,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “When that happened, as a condition of you getting that opportunity, you could be required to sign off on them creating a digital replica of you that they would have the right to use in perpetuity within that universe for anything without further consent or compensation.”

He went on: “Can you imagine the position that that’s putting someone in, which is this is their big break. They get cast in a Marvel movie, this is their chance, and then they’re told to get that chance, they have to basically give themselves up and give ownership over their persona to this corporation for any use they want in the future. That’s an absolutely unconscionable proposal. And of course we rejected it.”

Crabtree-Ireland also broke down the status of the AMPTP joining actors at the negotiating table — which he said was stagnant, but shared that SAG-AGFTRA’s move to grant interim agreements seemed promising.

“The goal of an interim agreement is to really prove to the industry and the world at large that the studio’s position is unreasonable, which it is, and I know this because there are over 1200 independent productions that would love to produce under our interim agreement,” Crabtree-Ireland said.

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