The Write Path Forward: The Writers’ Strike Reaches Resolution as Actors’ Battle Continues

Taylor GilbertsonNews & Insights

On September 27, 2023, the Writers Guild of America (“WGA”) and the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (“AMPTP”) reached an agreement after 148 days, effectively ending the second longest writers’ strike in history.[1] The agreement was the result of five consecutive days of negotiations,[2] in which the WGA demanded better pay, increased royalty payments for streaming content, and protections against artificial intelligence.[3] The strikes came after the previous contract between the parties expired on May 1st, at which point the WGA began renegotiating their contract with AMPTP.[4]  The strike officially commenced on May 2, 2023, when their initial negotiations failed to produce a sufficient contract.[5]

      Five months later, the WGA succeeded in securing most of its demands in the final deal, which was worth approximately $147 billion more than AMPTP’s original offer.[6] The new contract pays writers greater royalties for streamed content and scales compensation to a show’s success, so that writers get paid more depending on the popularity of their work.[7]  Additionally, the deal secures minimum wage increases for writers annually, with a 5% increase at the contract’s ratification, 4% the following year, and 3.5% the year after that.[8]

Another area of particular importance in reaching a resolution was the introduction of an AI clause.[9] Once considered a mere theoretical debate, the role of AI in entertainment is emerging as one of the most contentious topics in the industry.[10]   Although the agreement does not prohibit the use of AI altogether, its language indicates an intent to restrict AI use to that which supports writers rather than undermines them.[11] For example, the tentative agreement provides that AI may not write or rewrite material, and that any AI-generated material cannot be classified as source material, thus ensuring that AI will not undermine a writer’s credit or separated rights.[12] The clause also broadens writers’ control over AI, and specifies that a writer may choose to use AI at their own discretion so long as it is in accordance with company policy and the employer consents to such use.[13] In addition, the new provision requires companies to disclose to writers where materials presented to them have been written or partially written by AI.[14]

 “I hope [the new contract] will be a model for a lot of other content-creation industries,” said Tom Davenport, Babson College professor and author of the book All-in on AI: How Smart Companies Win Big with Artificial Intelligence, in an interview with AP News.[15] “It pretty much ensures that if [you are] going to use AI, [it is] going to be humans working alongside AI. That, to me, has always been the best way to use any form of AI.” [16]

Following in the footsteps of the WGA, SAG-AFTRA entered into a strike on July 14 that has now been in effect for over 100 days.[17] Recently, studios suspended talks with SAG-AFTRA, criticizing them for rejecting terms similar to those accepted by the WGA.[18] The primary sticking point for actors is their demand for greater profit-splits between the studios and actors, which the AMPTP deemed an “untenable economic burden.”[19] Artificial intelligence is also a major point of contention, especially for background actors who claim that their likeness has already been scanned and reused without their consent.[20] Studios estimate that the SAG-AFTRA proposal would cost more than $2.4 billion over the course of a new three-year contract, or roughly $800 million a year.[21]

SAG-AFTRA represents a wide range of people with varying needs, such as actors, dancers, extras and stunt-people.[22] The diversity of its 65,000 members highlights complexities in the ongoing negotiations, and SAG-AFTRA contends that their needs are therefore substantially different from those of the WGA.[23] More than 300 members signed a letter that outlined these specific needs in advance of the strike.[24]

            “This is an unprecedented inflection point in our industry, and what might be considered a good deal in any other years is simply not enough,” stated the letter.[25] “We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom, and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories.”[26]

      Though the outcome of the SAG-AFTRA strike remains uncertain, the resolution in the WGA strikes demonstrates the collective power of workers in the industry and serves as proof that withholding labor may incentivize studios to meet the demands of those working in the industry.


[1] LA Times Staff, Writers’ Strike: What Happened, How it Ended, and its Impact on Hollywood, LA Times (Oct. 20, 2023), https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/business/story/2023-05-01/writers-strike-what-to-know-wga-guild-hollywood-productions.

[2] Id.

[3] Andrew Dalton, The Hollywood Writers Strike is Over After Guild Leaders Approve Contract with Studios, AP News (Oct. 20, 2023), https://apnews.com/article/writers-strike-deal-hollywood-vote-actors-d3119d670a4fd3449773bf8f4026fb2b.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Laura Zornosa, Screenwriters Reached a Deal to End the Strikes. Here’s What Happens Next, Time (Oct. 20, 2023), https://time.com/6317199/wga-strike-tentative-agreement/.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Jake Coyle, In Hollywood Writers’ Battle Against AI, Humans Win (For Now), AP News (Oct. 20, 2023), https://apnews.com/article/hollywood-ai-strike-wga-artificial-intelligence-39ab72582c3a15f77510c9c30a45ffc8.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Todd Lyon, Landon Schwob, Agreement on Key AI Terms Leads To Strike Resolution: What Employers Need To Know, Fischer Philipps (Oct. 20, 2023) https://www.fisherphillips.com/en/news-insights/agreement-on-key-ai-terms-leads-to-writers-strike-resolution-what-employers-need-to-know.html.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Coyle, Supra note 9.

[16] Id.

[17] Why We Strike, SAG-AFTRA, https://www.sagaftrastrike.org/why-we-strike (last visited Oct. 23, 2023)

[18] Krysta Fauria, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher Reacts to Hollywood Studios Breaking Off Negotiations, AP News (Oct. 20, 2023),  https://apnews.com/article/actors-strike-fran-drescher-interview-efa8d2ffac5f27dcdf0b9172e2f0e187.

[19] John Koblin, Nicole Sperling, Talks Between Striking Actors and Studios Are Suspended, New York Times (Oct. 20, 2023), https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/12/business/media/actors-strike-talks-suspended.html.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Supra note 17.

[23] Erik Pedersen, Patrick Hipes, 300-Plus Actors Sign Letter Urging SAG-AFTRA Leaders to “Make Clear Our Resolve” In Contract Talks: “We Are Prepared to Strike,” Deadline (June 27, 2023), https://deadline.com/2023/06/actors-strike-stars-urge-sag-aftra-to-take-hard-line-in-talks-1235426024/.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.