WASHINGTON, D.C. — The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) urged Congress to develop a comprehensive policy framework that ensures entertainment workers are protected as generative artificial intelligence technologies, if left unchecked, represent the next frontier of large-scale online piracy.
Speaking on Wednesday at the bipartisan U.S. Senate AI Insight Forum on intellectual property and copyright, Vanessa Holtgrewe, Assistant Department Director, Motion Picture & Television Production, said that AI poses an existential threat to certain jobs in the entertainment industry. Absent safeguards to ensure consent and compensation for the use of copyrighted works and individual intellectual property rights, and appropriate transparency of training sets, AI will be used as a sophisticated, deceptive tool for content theft.
“The most pressing area of focus for policymaking and regulatory action by the United States Congress is maintaining strong copyright and intellectual property laws,” Holtgrewe said. “While IATSE members do not own the copyrights to the works we help create, our livelihoods depend on collectively bargained contractual residuals paid to our health and pension plans when the copyrights for those audiovisual works are licensed to others over the life of a work.”
Holtgrewe thanked Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Sens. Heinrich, Rounds, and Young for the opportunity to share the perspective of IATSE’s more than 170,000 members, who include behind-the- scenes entertainment workers in crafts ranging from motion picture animators to stagehands.
Congress must also ensure that entertainment workers are fairly compensated when their work is used to train, develop or generate new works by AI systems. Holtgrewe said, “AI developers cannot be allowed to circumvent established U.S. copyright law and commit intellectual property theft by scraping the internet for copyrighted works to train their models without permission from rightsholders. The theft of copyrighted works – domestically and internationally – threatens our hard-won health care benefits and retirement security.”
IATSE International President Matthew D. Loeb added, “We know the stakes are extremely high for IATSE members in all crafts when it comes to the implementation of AI. That’s why in May we created the Commission on Artificial Intelligence to help equip our members with the skills to navigate this technological advancement. The implementation of AI should not lead to job losses but rather should serve as a tool, complementing the work done by IATSE members. We are continuing to engage policymakers at all levels on these crucial issues. Thank you to Majority Leader Schumer and the forum organizers for their leadership.”
In July, IATSE published its Core Principles for the Application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). In October, IATSE General Secretary-Treasurer James B. Wood was in attendance at the White House as President Joe Biden announced and signed a landmark executive order (EO) on artificial intelligence.