(Disclosure: It’s The Verge The editorial staff is also affiliated with the Writers Guild of America, East.)
The WGA dropped a summary of the deal tonight That is history. Wages and artificial intelligence are WGA’s greatest hits. Pay increases are significant across the board, with significant increases for “high-budget subscription video-on-demand” (think Netflix) and streaming movies.
“AI is the flashpoint… data is the game changer.”
The WGA says that writers of streaming features should receive an 18 percent increase in minimum compensation if the film is made with a budget of at least $30 million, and a 26 percent increase on the rest of the site.
On the AI side of things, the WGA got what it was asking for from the start. According to the contract summary, AI cannot write or rewrite literary material, and AI-generated material cannot be used as source material. So an admin can’t ask ChatGPT to come up with a story and ask a writer to turn it into a script.
WGA also reserves the right to assert that “exploitation of authors’ material to train AI is prohibited by MBA or other law.” This means that if the rules change or the AI practice reaches a point of contention for guild members, the WGA can call it exploitative. This may be related to proposed laws being proposed in California.
But “AI is the flashpoint. Data is the game changer,” said Catherine Trentacosta, director of policy and advocacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a reporter covering the strike. Deputy And quitter, told me.
And I agree. as LA Times Mentioned Earlier this week, streaming data was basically a black hole. This meant that anyone working on projects in Hollywood had no idea how well those projects were doing, which created a problem because pay for projects was directly tied to performance.
Now, studios must provide actual data to the WGA. Specifically “the total number of hours streamed of self-produced high-budget streaming projects, both domestically and internationally.” That means Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon, and other streamers can’t find weird metrics or meaningless self-reference rankings to provide to the WGA. Numbers provided by studios may be subject to NDAs—so others don’t need access to those metrics. Nevertheless, the WGA can still publish data in aggregate, giving us a more nuanced and revealing look at the streaming business than anything we’ve had before.
When the actual real numbers start rolling in and nobody you know hears about it or a show gets canceled due to lack of interest, it’s really hard for streamers to say it’s a success.
The streaming industry has thrived on data opacity—a field in the storytelling business that allows the story to twist however it sees fit with carefully crafted data. Now, WGA members have access to real, real, hard data, and once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s going to be very difficult to squash it back in.
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