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ON STIKE: It’s over! (but it's also just the start)

By Elizabeth BJ

Last month, the writers' strike came to an end with agreements that met the guild’s demands, at least for the next three years. However, productions were still paused because the actors' union had problems with the negotiations.

Photo: Unsplash

November started with SAG-AFTRA announcing that they were achieving good deals in their dispute against AMPTP, winning better wages and residual payments for their actors. With both strikes happily resolved, productions were restarted, and press tours and announcements were made all over. Nevertheless, the president of SAG-AFTRA herself said that these agreements will need a new revision in the near future, just as the writers' contracts will.

The problem is that technology is changing at such a fast pace that it is hard to delimit its uses and the ethical principles behind them. One of the main preoccupations of both strikes was the use of Artificial Intelligence in their fields because of its monetary and creative implications.

On one side, their work might be diminished because "an AI can do it." This mindset has already affected other occupations. For example, translators are now hired to "correct" translations made with AI, but their work as editors is underpaid, even when they have to redo the entire translation.

On the other hand, the creative rights that we've spent decades defining and fighting for are at risk, as AIs feed with content that is copyrighted without any restriction and without compensating or warning the authors of said content/ works. This has been widely discussed in the visual arts community, as AI with visual products gained great popularity in social media. They managed to raise the topic of copyright infringement, as images generated with AI surfaced, and these were plainly plagiarizing someone else's work.

The same can be done with writing, as AI can be fed text and recognize style patterns if properly prompted. Meanwhile, for actors, the use of their image without consent is the main preoccupation.

Something similar is happening in the music industry, as apps like TikTok have increased the popularity of AI-generated sounds. This problem extends in many ways, but let's touch upon two. The first one, that matters for security reasons is that, as AI gets refined, it would be harder to distinguish real people from made-up and real voices from imitations, creating a security breach and identity recognition issues.

In the creative realm of things, people can't regulate the use of their voice emulators, and sometimes this attempts against their freedom of speech, their ideals, or their creative views and projects. Recently, the urban singer Bad Bunny was mocked because he complained about the use of AI to generate a song, from lyrics that took information about his previous releases material to put up a brand new composition that fits his aesthetic, to his voice singing it. The track gathered more listeners on social media apps than most of the songs in his brand new album. Many argue that the difference in audience engagement was causing the discomfort of the musician, but whether this is true or not points out a real problem.

Are we the "owners" of our voices? Can our work be reduced to a series of recognizable patterns? And more in line with the start of this article: Is it time to regulate AI-generated content and HOW are we gonna achieve that?

In an ever-changing environment like this, it is hard to say. But maybe let's start somewhere. Writers and actors have already made a very important advancement, so let's support whoever follows.


About the Writer:

Elizabeth BJ, is a twenty-something Mexican writer fresh out of college (UNAM), where she studied English Literature. She has published poetry, critical analysis, fiction, nonfiction and recently interviews and research pieces, all on different online media, both in English and Spanish. Also, is interested in the creation and analysis of audiovisual media, and just recently started to build a path on illustration. Look her up at @cazandocolibris on Twitter and Instagram.

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