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SAG-AFTRA and Major Labels Reach Deal for Artificial Intelligence Protections

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing roughly 160,000 actors, dancers, singers, recording artists and other media professionals, and all three major music companies reached a tentative multiyear agreement last week that includes guardrails for the use of artificial intelligence technology across the industry.

A successor to the SAG-AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Sound Recordings, the new deal received unanimous approval from the guild’s executive committee and, if ratified by member vote, will cover the period beginning Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2026. Participating labels include Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, as well as Disney Music Group.

The AI guidelines require that the use of terms such as “artist,” “singer” and “royalty artist” only refer to actual humans, plus the deal calls for clear consent, minimum compensation and other stipulations prior to the release of a sound recording using a digital replication of a real artist’s voice.

The tentative contract also includes increased minimums, health and retirement improvements, and an increase in the percentage of streaming revenue to be covered by contributions.

“This agreement ensures that our members are protected,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA national executive director. “SAG-AFTRA stands firm in the belief that while technology can enhance the creative process, the essence of music must always be rooted in genuine human expression and experience. We look forward to working alongside our industry partners to foster an environment where innovation serves to elevate, not diminish, the unique value of each artist’s contribution to our rich cultural tapestry.”

The Record Label Negotiating Committee said, “Together, we’ll chart a successful course forward, embracing new opportunities and facing our common challenges, strengthened by our shared values and commitment to human artistry.”

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