What’s Holding Up an Actors’ Strike Deal

SAG-AFTRA is expected to respond or counter the offer as early as Monday.
SAG-AFTRA is expected to respond or counter the offer as early as Monday. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Jonathan Handel
November 6, 2023

Maybe one day robots will do deals, but tonight they’re the main reason there is no deal to end the almost-four month SAG-AFTRA strike. A.I. and streaming residuals remain the roadblocks to an agreement between the union and the studios and streamers—despite the recent participation of eight company C.E.O.s and top execs, and a supposed “last, best, and final” offer delivered yesterday. There will be no deal tonight, and the union is likely to counter the L.B.F. tomorrow, with uncertain results thereafter. So no, don’t chill the champagne yet.

I’m hearing that the companies brought in a group of intellectual property attorneys to focus on the A.I. issue, but that they’re multiplying the issues rather than finding answers. (I reached out to the AMPTP for comment but have heard nothing back.) A core question at hand: What’s the definition of “generative A.I.”? The AMPTP companies and president/chief negotiator Carol Lombardini were comfortable with a loose definition in the recent Writers Guild deal, but these I.P. lawyers want precision. The union suggested using the definition from the White House’s recent batch of A.I. regulations, but the I.P. lawyers pushed back.

How about “digital replicas”? The I.P. attorneys want to distinguish between “employment-related digital replicas” and non-employment ones, whatever exactly that distinction may be. In any case, the companies want broader usage rights than SAG-AFTRA finds reasonable. And A.I. training on actors’ performances—which is the process of ingesting footage and learning from it—still appears to be an issue, as well.