Proposed California Legislation Would Protect Actors From AI Copycats


With no end in sight to the ongoing actors’ strike in Hollywood, a California lawmaker introduced legislation Wednesday that, if passed, would give actors a way out of contracts that require the use of their likeness to create digital avatars using artificial intelligence.

The bill, AB459, would allow actors, including voice actors, to nullify vague contracts about AI use to digitally clone their voices, faces, and bodies if a labor union or lawyer did not represent the performers. Assemblymember Ash Kalra, the Democrat who introduced the bill, represents California’s 25th Assembly District—which includes San Jose, the largest city in Silicon Valley.

“Absent a collective bargaining agreement between the union and studios to fairly address digital replication of a performer’s work, AB 459 is an expedient legislative alternative that will protect performers’ rights from the real threat of this form of AI,” Assemblymember Kalra said in a statement.

“In a world where your digital self can take your job, we need common sense requirements on these contract terms,” he continued. “Mandating informed consent and representation will help ensure workers are not unknowingly at risk of losing the right to their digital self, and with it, their careers and livelihoods.”

According to a Los Angeles Times report, contracts that do not clearly define the potential uses of an AI-generated digital replica would be considered “unconscionable” under California law and unenforceable.

In June, Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) members voted 98% in favor of authorizing a strike before heading to the negotiating table with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The use of AI tools is one of the key sticking points in negotiations between actors and producers.

“The core principles that we’re looking for is informed consent and fair compensation if you’re going to use any kind of AI or digital technology to recreate someone’s image or likeness,” SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told Decrypt at the time.

When talks between the two groups collapsed in July, SAG-AFTRA members officially joined the already striking Writer Guild of America (WGA) members on the picket line. Many SAG-AFTRA members, however, had already been standing in solidarity with the WGA for weeks.

While the use of generative AI models to create replicas of actors and voice actors is a concern for SAG-AFTRA, other demands on the table include wage increases, boosts in compensation for streaming programs, and increased health and retirement benefits.

The office of Assemblymember Ash Kalra did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.

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