U.K. Union Launches Toolkit to Protect Performers From Unregulated AI

Equity, the U.K. trade union for performers and creatives, has launched a comprehensive toolkit aimed at protecting performers from the increasing use of unregulated artificial intelligence (AI) in the entertainment industry.

The toolkit was developed in response to a surge in members seeking guidance, support and legal representation, as well as the U.K. government’s decision to implement “light touch” regulation through a voluntary code of practice on copyright and AI.

The toolkit, produced in partnership with intellectual property expert Mathilde Pavis, sets out ethical use of AI and provides legal templates for artists to enforce their legal rights and consists of several resources. These include a vision statement that outlines ethical applications of AI within the entertainment industry; a template AI contract designed to safeguard artists involved in performance cloning work; model AI clauses to prevent unauthorized cloning of performers’ work; and a template take-down notice to address intellectual property infringement on online platforms and websites.

Equity’s AI toolkit comes at a time when the government is working on industry guidelines for regulating AI and seeking input on their pro-innovation approach outlined in a recent AI White Paper. Equity plans to submit evidence emphasizing the urgent need to strengthen performers’ intellectual property rights. In addition to launching the toolkit, Equity is collaborating closely with various entertainment stakeholders, including broadcasters, producers and streamers, to ensure the recognition and protection of performers’ rights, as well as safeguarding their image, voice and likeness under GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

The U.K. parliament’s science, innovation and technology committee is conducting a series of hearings into the subject and Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, CEO, U.K. Music and Paul Fleming, general secretary of Equity, recently provided evidence.

In the U.S., SAG-AFTRA is similarly striving to protect members’ rights.

Equity’s industrial official for new media, Liam Budd, said: “With use of AI on the rise across the entertainment industries, Equity is taking action and giving our members the tools they need to safeguard their legal rights. We are proud to be leading the way by producing a ground-breaking template AI contract and setting out new industry standards. Whilst Equity will continue to engage with producers across the entertainment industries, the government needs to step in with robust measures to properly regulate the growing use of AI.”

Pavis added: “The U.K. legal framework is not well designed to protect performers from unauthorized imitations of their work using AI technology. The Equity toolkit is a very good, but temporary, solution to protect performers until the U.K. government reforms the law. We hope the government puts forward artist-centred and workable proposals for reform, going beyond voluntary codes of conduct. Having a clear legal framework on AI-generated performances makes for better business for all involved: performers, producers, content distributors, AI companies and the consumer.”

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