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AI’s Takeover Threatens UK Performers: Trade Union Warns Of Lost Income And Jobs


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The regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) is a hotly debated topic in the UK, with the government proposing new regulations in March of this year. The UK parliament’s science, innovation, and technology committee is holding a series of hearings on the subject. During one of these hearings, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, CEO of UK Music, and Paul Fleming, general secretary of Equity, the UK trade union for creative practitioners, provided evidence on the impact of AI on the entertainment industry.


Fleming highlighted that AI is increasingly taking over stable sources of income, such as radio advertisements, which allow practitioners to work in the more artistically fulfilling areas of the industry, like theater. He also noted that AI has been replacing humans in crowd scenes in film and TV shows for some time, reducing the opportunity to earn for actors. However, Fleming acknowledged that AI presents new opportunities in the form of video games and reanimation of actors, like Peter Cushing in the Star Wars franchise.

Njoku-Goodwin shared that assistive AI has been beneficial in the music industry, particularly in identifying copyright infringement, audience analytics, and business models. However, there are concerns when it comes to generative AI, which uses someone else’s work without permission and respect for copyright. Njoku-Goodwin stressed the need for a regulatory framework in place to protect the moral and legal rights of industry members.

Equity is currently running a campaign called Stop AI Stealing the Show, which aims to educate, enforce, and expand the protection of performers’ rights. The campaign states that performers lack understanding of their performers’ rights when signing contracts and are being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements without knowing what the job entails. Additionally, performers think that the development of AI technology poses a threat to employment opportunities in the performing arts sector. Equity members believe that the government should introduce new legal protections for performers, so that a performance cannot be reproduced by AI technology without their consent.

Fleming emphasized that the campaign aims to educate members on their rights and that they are not opposed to new technology but rather dislike the malicious use of technology that undermines their terms and conditions. He believes that the current framework in which AI operates is not strong enough and that a regulatory framework is necessary.



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