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Chief Negotiator Says AI Talks “Far Apart” With Studios

After AMPTP called their AI proposal to SAG-AFTRA yesterday “groundbreaking”, the actors’ union National Executive Director and chief negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, still begs to differ.

“We’re pretty far apart on AI,” said Crabtree-Ireland, expounding on his argument yesterday that the AMPTP is stiffing background performers on that deal point.

Crabtree-Ireland made his comments outside Disney studios today in what was the last stop in a studio day one strike tour with SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher.

“The companies refuse to recognize that you can’t expect people to sign over their name, image, likeness and voice, their persona to some corporate conglomerate with no right to ever say what they’re going to do with it in the future,” said Crabtree-Ireland.

“That is not going to happen, we are not going to agree to terms like that, so the companies have to move in our direction and come up with some reasonable agreement,” he added.

“We didn’t come into this negotiation saying ‘Let’s ban AI’,” explained Crabtree-Ireland.

“We came into this negotiation saying that AI has to be done in a way that respects actors, respects their human rights to their own bodies, voice, image and likeness.”

“Nothing less than that is going to be acceptable.”

AMPTP said yesterday that they presented SAG-AFTRA with “a groundbreaking AI proposal which protects performers’ digital likenesses, including a requirement for performer’s consent for the creation and use of digital replicas or for digital alterations of a performance.”

However, in the actors’ guild strike presser yesterday, Crabtree-Ireland rebutted, “This ‘groundbreaking’ AI proposal that they gave us yesterday that our background performers should be able to be scanned and get paid for one day’s pay and their companies should own that scanned image, their likeness to be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation, if you think that’s a groundbreaking proposal I suggest you think again.”

In regards to when the studios and streamers will begin to feel the sting in their bottom lines from the SAG-AFTRA strike, Crabtree-Ireland said, “I think considering all the efforts they’ve gone to try and manipulate us into an extension, I think they’re concerned about the immediate impact, especially with respect to promotion of summer blockbusters and things like that.”

In regards to how consumers and TV and streaming viewers can show their solidarity, Crabtree-Ireland encouraged them to “speak out on social media.”

“Viewers can help us in considering companies’ behavior; the companies they choose to consume content from,” the chief talks boss added.

“Consumers are watching, consumers know that the battle we’re fighting is just, so I do think these companies need to be very concerned about turning off the public.”

“This is not the way it was ten years ago or 20 years ago: There’s a movement for labor solidarity and fair treatment of workers in this country, and we’re part of that movement,” Crabtree-Ireland added, “It will cost these companies if they refuse to recognize that.”

While it’s still early in the strike, Crabtree-Ireland said that he’s not ruling out pickets in other cities where some of these streaming HQs are located, read Seattle, the home of Amazon.

“You can expect our presence anywhere where there’s a presence from these companies,” he said.

Some rank-and-file working actors have been concerned about how SAG-AFTRA will handle streamers’ streak for pulling movies and series off their OTT services in the latest AMPTP contract talks.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a point in our discussions,” Crabtree-Ireland told Deadline, “We’re more focused on sharing the revenue of the streamers, rather than focusing on specific projects because obviously there’s a lot of factors that go into this.”

“We have proposals about AVOD, but really we’ve been focused on subscriptions, streaming subscriptions as the primary focus of that. We’re not talking about profit-share, we’re talking about revenue share.”

Similar to what he said this morning at Drescher’s first strike stop at Netflix, Crabtree-Ireland said again that’s there’s been no word from AMPTP to return to talks since they broke up Wednesday night.

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