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SAG-AFTRA Ratifies Sound Recordings Contract, Providing AI Guardrails

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SAG-AFTRA Ratifies Sound Recordings Contract, Providing AI Guardrails

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SAG-AFTRA members have voted to ratify the 2024 Sound Recordings Code which requires the record labels — Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Disney Music Group — to abide by its AI safety rules. Notably, these are the first-ever explicitly defined compensation requirements for the release of sound recordings containing AI voices.

With a vote of 97.69% to 2.31%, SAG-AFTRA members, which include actors as well as singers and recording artists, now will receive this protections, effective immediately, for the term of 2021-2026. Now, the term “artist,” “singer” and “royalty artist” under this agreement only can refer to human talent. “Clear and conspicuous” consent is required prior to the release of a sound recording that uses a digital replication of an artist’s voice.

Artists who are replicated are also entitled to receive specific details about the replica’s intended use and to minimum compensation. Compensation for artists must align with the royalty share the artist would earn on other sound recordings under their contract, and sessions singers must receive a minimum of three sides per project. A minimum of 28 hours notice of any recording session for the purpose of creating a digital replica is expected and that session time should be paid as work time.

Additionally, blanket consent for digital or AI replication is prohibited. Instead, record labels must obtain consent on a per-project basis — a provision which will prevent labels from asking artists to sign away their digital likeness for lengthy terms as part of their deals.

In the year since Ghostwriter’s fake-Drake song “Heart On My Sleeve” brought conversations about AI voices to the forefront, little has been done to actually enforce the protection of artists’ identities. While the federal government is considering a few bills (like the draft NO FAKES Act and the NO AI FRAUD Act) to create a nationwide right of publicity that would create uniform protection for artists’ names, images, and voices, these protections, for now, remain a patchwork of varying state laws that were largely written before artificial intelligence presented new use cases for AI.

“Singers and recording artists have a profound impact on our culture, and I’m thrilled that they’ve achieved a contract that not only recognizes their value with significant wage increases, but also provides them essential protections around artificial intelligence,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “We celebrate our human performers! I applaud the negotiating committee and staff, the record labels, and SAG-AFTRA members for getting this contract across the finish line!”

SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director & Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said, “This contract secures groundbreaking A.I. guardrails while also achieving crucial and substantial wage increases, and other key wins for singers and recording artists. Protecting human artistry will always be SAG-AFTRA’s priority, and I’m heartened that our members have a contract that provides immediate gains and recognizes the importance of human contributions to the industry. I also want to acknowledge Negotiating Committee Chair Dan Navarro and the entire committee and staff for their outstanding and dedicated work in achieving this agreement.”

Sound Recordings Code Negotiating Committee Chair Dan Navarro said, “Members’ feedback played a key role in the formation of this contract and the negotiating committee prioritized the concerns that were most crucial to the singers and recording artists impacted by these terms. We’re proud to have achieved these essential wins in A.I. protections along with substantial wage increases and gains in health and retirement funding.”

Other wins included wage increases and gains in health and retirement funding. To read the full list of provisions, see here.

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