The Writers Guild of America has proposed allowing artificial intelligence to write scripts, as long as it does not affect writers’ credits or residuals.
The guild had previously indicated that it would propose regulating the use of A.I. in the writing process, which has recently surfaced as a concern for writers who fear losing out on jobs.
But contrary to some expectations, the guild is not proposing an outright ban on the use of A.I. technology.
Instead, the proposal would allow a writer to use ChatGPT to help write a script without having to share writing credit or divide residuals. Or, a studio executive could hand the writer an A.I.-generated script to rewrite or polish and the writer would still be considered the first writer on the project.
In effect, the proposal would treat A.I. as a tool — like Final Draft or a pencil — rather than as a writer. It appears to be intended to allow writers to benefit from the technology without getting dragged into credit arbitrations with software manufacturers.
The proposal does not address the scenario in which an A.I. program writes a script entirely on its own, without help from a person.
The guild’s proposal was discussed in the first bargaining session on Monday with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Three sources confirmed the proposal.
It’s not yet clear whether the AMPTP, which represents the studios, will be receptive to the idea.
The WGA proposal states simply that A.I.-generated material will not be considered “literary material” or “source material.”
Those terms are key for assigning writing credits, which in turn have a big impact on residual compensation.
“Literary material” is a fundamental term in the WGA’s minimum basic agreement — it is what a “writer” produces (including stories, treatments, screenplays, dialogue, sketches, etc.). If an A.I. program cannot produce “literary material,” then it cannot be considered a “writer” on a project.
“Source material” refers to things like novels, plays and magazine articles, on which a screenplay may be based. If a screenplay is based on source material, then it is not considered an “original screenplay.” The writer may also get only a “screenplay by” credit, rather than a “written by” credit.
A “written by” credit entitles the writer to the full residual for the project, while a “screenplay by” credit gets 75%.
By declaring that ChatGPT cannot write “source material,” the guild would be saying that a writer could adapt an A.I.-written short story and still get full “written by” credit.
Such scenarios may seem farfetched. But technological advances can present some of the thorniest issues in bargaining, as neither side wants to concede some advantage that may become more consequential in future years.
A.I. could also be used to help write questions on “Jeopardy!” or other “quiz and audience participation” shows.
SAG-AFTRA has also raised concerns about the effects of A.I. on performers, notably around losing control of their image, voice and likeness.
The WGA is set to continue bargaining for the next two weeks before reporting back to members on next steps and a potential strike. The contract expires on May 1.
Originally published at variety.com