July 24, 2024

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Studios Stand on Sidelines of AI Battle

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OpenAI is partnering with Apple to give the iPhone maker a role on its board, Bloomberg reported, affording the Sam Altman-led firm another foothold into Hollywood as the industry grapples artificial intelligence tools that have the potential to upend production, along with livelihoods of creators who’re concerned about being replaced by the tech.

As part of a seismic agreement announced last month, head of Apple App Store and former marketing chief Phil Schiller will assume the so-called “observer” position, according to Bloomberg. Under the pact, he’ll be able to attend board meetings and gain a glimpse into company operations — part of which involves courting Hollywood to adopt its products — but won’t be allowed to vote.

The move follows OpenAI unveiling in February Sora, an AI tool capable of creating hyper-realistic videos. In response to a text prompt of just a couple of sentences, it can seemingly produce videos of complex scenes with multiple characters, an array of different types of shots and mostly accurate details of subjects in relation to their backgrounds. Beta testers, who are providing feedback to OpenAI to improve the tech, have been rolling out their own projects utilizing Sora as part of the company’s Hollywood blitz.

Apple’s growing partnership with OpenAI further calls into question the standing of major studios and the Motion Picture Association, which counts Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Netflix among its members, on issues related to the use of intellectual property to train AI systems. OpenAI is facing a torrent of lawsuits from most corners of the creative industry, including artists, authors and music publishers, accusing it of misappropriating copyrighted material to vault it to a multibillion dollar valuation as it appears to encroach upon the entertainment industry.

Asked by CNBC about whether AI companies “have effectively stolen the world’s IP,” Microsoft AI chief Mustafa Suleyman responded, “Anyone can copy it, recreate with it, reproduce with it. That has been ‘freeware,’ if you like, that’s been the understanding.”

With AI among the most divisive subjects in Hollywood, creators have taken notice of comments from tech executives signaling displacement. OpenAI chief technology officer said in June that the company’s tools may potentially eliminate jobs. “Some creative jobs maybe will go away, but maybe they shouldn’t have been there in the first place if the content that comes out of it is not very high quality,” she explained.

Studios stand as among the most notable groups that’ve chosen not to sue AI companies, which could be using copyright-protected material in training data. AI image generators are increasingly returning nearly exact replicas of frames from films. When prompted with “Thanos Infinity War,” Midjourney — an AI program that translates text into hyper-realistic graphics — returns an image of the purple-skinned villain in a frame that appears to be taken from the Marvel movie or promotional materials, with few to no alterations made. A shot of Tom Cruise in the cockpit of a fighter jet, from Top Gun: Maverick, is similarly produced if the tool is asked for a frame from the film.

Studios like Apple and Amazon may have sowed division among their Hollywood peers, which could choose to license their catalogue of content to AI companies, as some publishers are doing. They’re among the leaders in the tech industry developing and looking to commercialize the tech.

In response to the Copyright Office exploring policy questions surrounding the intersection of AI and intellectual property, the MPA landed on opposite sides of several hot-button issues with SAG-AFTRA, the Writers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America. Joined by OpenAI, Meta and tech advocacy groups, the MPA diverged with the unions on whether new legislation is warranted to address the unauthorized use of copyrighted material to train AI systems and the mass generation of potentially infringing works based on existing content. The group maintained that existing intellectual property laws are sufficient to address thorny legal issues posed by the technology. This stood in contrast to SAG-AFTRA’s call for a federal right of publicity law that would protect members’ rights to profit off of their images, voices and likenesses.

Earlier this month, Chamber of Progress, a tech industry coalition whose members include Amazon, Apple and Meta, launched a campaign to to defend the legality of using copyrighted works to train artificial intelligence systems.

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