SAG-AFTRA picketing in New York

Studios Allegedly Want Rights to Deceased Actors’ Likenesses in Latest AMPTP Offer

SAG-AFTRA is countering the AMPTP’s most recent offer after the labor union found the artificial intelligence proposals unsatisfactory. Allegedly, the AMPTP’s offer contained language that suggests studios are interested in securing the rights to use deceased actors’ likenesses without permission.

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SAG-AFTRA has been on strike for over 100 days as actors fight for better compensation, residuals, job security, and protections against AI. However, the Hollywood studios that make up the AMPTP have been reluctant to negotiate with SAG-AFTRA, especially on the topic of AI. SAG-AFTRA initially chose to strike after the AMPTP made an offer that included allowing studios to scan background actors for one day of pay and then own those actors’ likenesses in perpetuity. Studios are interested in scanning actors and using AI to recreate and utilize their likenesses without consent or compensation, while actors are asking the AMPTP to protect them from the threat of AI in the industry.

On November 4, the AMPTP gave SAG-AFTRA what it claimed was its “last, best and final” offer, even gathering all the major studio CEOs together to present the offer. For the first time, the strike seemed close to concluding. However, after spending several days reviewing the proposal, SAG-AFTRA issued a counteroffer, confirming that negotiations were not done. Details of the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA’s latest offers haven’t been made public, but insider accounts suggest that SAG-AFTRA made the right move due to some very concerning language in the AMPTP’s offer.

AMPTP’s offer includes concerning language about AI scans

Annie Murphy as Joan Tait in Black Mirror episode "Joan is Awful."

According to The Hollywood Reporter, union insiders revealed one of the major reasons that SAG-AFTRA rejected the AMPTP’s latest offer. These sources claim that the AMPTP proposed requiring “studios and streamers to pay to scan the likeness of Schedule F performers.” Schedule F performers are actors who make more than the minimum for TV shows or feature films. What’s concerning is that the language the AMPTP used could create a loophole in which studios would have the rights to use the scans of deceased actors without compensation or consent from either the actors’ estates or SAG-AFTRA.

This is why SAG-AFTRA proposed a counteroffer requiring consent and compensation every time an actor’s scan is re-used. If studios really are trying to utilize deceased actors’ likenesses without consent, SAG-AFTRA should be very concerned. Considering that studios have already sparked controversy by resurrecting deceased actors on screen, it’s quite horrifying that they may now want to do this without permission. Recently, The Flash recreated several deceased actors through CGI, even though some of these actors likely would’ve hated what Warner Bros. did to their characters if they were still living. There’s already concern about how transparent studios are when using an actor’s likeness and whether these actors or their estates even fully know what they’re agreeing to.

Recreating any actor’s likeness through CGI and AI is already concerning. When the actor in question is deceased, this should require even more delicacy and transparency from the studio. No studio should be able to potentially go around the estate of a deceased actor to resurrect them on screen. It’s sickening to think that a deceased actor’s loved ones may not be given the opportunity to prevent a studio from using the actor’s likeness, or may not even be aware it’s being used until it pops up on a TV screen. What the AMPTP seems to be proposing is similar to its first proposal—it pays Schedule F actors once for a scan and then essentially owns their likeness, even in death.

If these insiders’ reports are true, those pushing for the strike to end need to allow SAG-AFTRA to take all the time it needs to negotiate. It should be very wary of what the AMPTP is proposing and ensure that there are no loopholes that could significantly harm actors.

(via THR, featured image: Michael M. Santiago, Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.