(Divulgation: The edge The editorial staff is also unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East.)
The WGA released a summary of the contract tonight and It’s historical. The WGA’s most striking victories relate to wage increases and artificial intelligence. Pay increases are significant across the board, with notable increases for “big-budget subscription video-on-demand” (think Netflix) and streaming movies.
“AI is what’s exciting… Data is what changes the rules of the game.”
The WGA says writers of streaming features should see a minimum 18 percent compensation increase, as long as the film has a budget of at least $30 million, plus a 26 percent increase in residual basis.
On the AI side, the WGA essentially got what it had been demanding all along. According to the contract summary, AI may not write or rewrite literary material, and material generated by AI may not be used as source material. Therefore, an executive will not be able to ask ChatGPT to pitch a story and ask the writers to turn it into a script to which the executive owns the rights.
The WGA also “reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by the MBA or other law.” This means that if laws change or AI training reaches a point of contention for guild members, the WGA will be able to call that exploitation. This is likely related to proposed laws in California regulating the use of materials to train AI.
But “AI is the catchy thing. Data is the game-changer,” said Katharine Trendacosta, director of policy and advocacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a reporter covering the strike. Vice and Deserter, told me.
And I tend to agree. As the Los Angeles Times noted Earlier this week, streaming data was essentially a black hole. This meant that no one working on projects in Hollywood knew how well those projects were doing, which created a problem because pay for projects is directly related to performance.
Now, studios will have to provide the WGA with real data. Specifically “the total number of hours broadcast, both domestically and internationally, of high-budget, self-produced broadcast programs.” That means Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon and the other streamers won’t be able to make up weird metrics or meaningless self-referential ratings to give to the WGA. The numbers that studies provide may be subject to confidentiality agreements, so the rest of us won’t necessarily have access to those metrics. However, the WGA will still be able to publish aggregate data, giving us a much more nuanced and revealing look at the streaming business than anything we’ve had before.
And once the real numbers start rolling in, it will be much harder for streamers to claim that a project was successful when no one you know has heard of it or to say that a show will be canceled due to lack of interest, while the numbers They suggest a different story.
The streaming industry has thrived on data opacity, allowing an industry in the fiction business to twist history as it sees fit with carefully crafted data. Now, there will be real, real, concrete data available to WGA members, and once the genie is out of the bottle, it will be much harder to squash it again.