As the Hollywood actors’ strike shows no signs of winding down, California Assemblymember Ash Kalra introduced a new bill, AB459, aimed at protecting actors from the unregulated use of their digital likeness by artificial intelligence. If passed, the legislation would allow actors and voice actors to void contracts that are ambiguous about the use of AI to digitally clone their appearances and voices, provided they were not represented by a labor union or lawyer at the time of signing.
Kalra, a Democrat who represents a district that includes tech hub San Jose, stated that in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement on this issue, the bill serves as a necessary legal measure. He emphasized the need for “informed consent and representation” to protect actors from inadvertently losing control over their digital identities, which could have severe career implications.
The bill comes in the context of ongoing negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), where the use of AI technology is a major sticking point. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, contracts lacking clear terms about the use of AI-generated digital likenesses would be deemed “unconscionable” under California law and thus unenforceable.
Earlier this year, SAG-AFTRA members voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike before entering negotiations with producers. When talks broke down in July, they joined the Writer Guild of America members on strike, although many had already been showing solidarity for weeks.
Aside from issues related to AI and digital replication, actors are also demanding higher wages, better compensation for streaming content, and improved health and retirement benefits.
The office of Assemblymember Ash Kalra has not yet commented on the issue.