Equity is the UK performing arts and entertainment trade union. Throughout our 100 year history we have fought to secure the best terms, conditions and ongoing rights for performing artists and creative practitioners with every emerging trend in new technology.
Whilst we will continue to establish new industrial practices, the potential for artificial intelligence to completely transform the landscape for audio and audio-visual work cannot be understated. As we move forward with this innovation, an artist-centred approach is vital to safeguard the future of our world leading entertainment workforce.
This Vision Statement outlines eight principles for the industry to adopt when engaging artists for the purpose of performance cloning. Artists being engaged for the purpose of performance cloning have the right to:
The infringement of intellectual property and associated rights is a growing problem for Artists with many generative AI platforms using original works without a licence to create new material. Artists have the right to consent (and not consent) when their performance, voice or likeness is recorded, used or reproduced by machine learning systems and equivalent technology. This right cannot be assigned or waived, and applies in perpetuity for past, current and future performances or likenesses.
Previous contracts used to engage Artists before the development of generative AI, which transferred their intellectual property and associated rights to third parties, should not be interpreted as authorising performance cloning. The use of back catalogue, previous or historic performances or likenesses (or Agreements pre-dating AI innovation) should only be done with the express, written consent of the Artist.
Take it or leave it contracts that require Artists to sign away their rights in perpetuity are sadly common practice. This becomes problematic when Artists are asked to work on an exclusive basis for another client at a later stage. This also puts Artists at risk of seeing their performance or their work repurposed to generate new content without their consent or adequate remuneration. Artists have the right to licence their performance, voice or likeness on personal, non-exclusive, time limited basis for specific projects.
The development of deepfake technology has reinforced the urgent need for Artists to assert their moral rights, safeguarding their ability to protect their performance, name and reputation. Artists have the right to be identified and object to derogatory treatment of their performance and work.
Often performing artists do not know where or how their professional contribution may be exploited due to unclear contract provisions, unspecified usage, and a lack of auditing rights. Artists have the right to audit and access transparent information. Producers and engagers should comply with this right by reporting relevant information in good faith and ensure all commercial partners follow the same obligations.
Our industry is not just a part of the economy to be squeezed into productive shape by AI. The arts offer something fundamental to our society, which is a sense of shared human experience. Careful consideration is required regarding the threat of job displacement and infringement on our members’ intellectual property. Artists and their trade unions have the right to meaningful consultation to ensure that human ingenuity is protected. The application of AI should be decided in partnership with all creative workers, including those historically marginalised, and their trade unions to ensure it applied ethically and responsibly.
Rapid technological developments have the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities in access to work in the industry, income inequalities and wage gaps, and notably for those most significantly marginalised across the entertainment industry i.e. deaf, disabled and neurodivergent artists. Some important conversations have taken place regarding innovative approaches to inclusion, for example within the games industry. However, greater attention and commitment is required from the industry so that technology is used to level the playing field and create more inclusive workplaces. Artists have the right to equal access to work generated by AI, and equal treatment in all aspects of engagement, performance and payment.
The one-off payments offered to performers who engage in AI work often do not reflect the fact that their image, voice or likeness may be used forever and on thousands of different projects. Artists have the right to fair and proportionate remuneration that reflects industry standards and the length and scope of the agreed usage. This right applies during the life of the performer and after their death, and for future and previously recorded performances.
The strength of the performing arts is built on the minimum terms agreements reached by Equity and different engagers. These agreements offer the best possible protections for our members, whilst helping producers and engagers remain compliant with their legal duties. However, provisions need updating to reflect innovation. New agreements are also urgently needed with AI companies who are reshaping the landscape for creative work. Artists have the right to be engaged under a collectively bargained agreement negotiated by their union with minimum rates of pay and equitable terms and conditions.