Disney Reportedly Studying Companywide AI Use as Creatives Strike

Disney is reportedly studying how to employ artificial intelligence (AI) across its global entertainment empire.

The company’s efforts, as reported Tuesday (Aug. 8) by Reuters, come in the middle of a strike by writers and actors that centers in part on limiting Hollywood’s use of AI.

Sources tell Reuters Disney formed an AI task force before the writers went on strike, with the group looking for ways to develop in-house AI applications, while also working with startups.

PYMNTS has contacted Disney for comment but has not yet received a reply. 

Among the sources is a pro-AI employee who argues companies like Disney need to figure out AI or risk being left behind. This source says the technology can help lower the cost of massive TV and movie productions that require equally huge box office revenues to break even.

The report also notes Disney Research has been exploring AI, machine learning and visual computing and has spent the last decade developing “digital humans” that it says are “indistinguishable” from their corporeal counterparts.

One source told Reuters this technology is being used to enhance digital effects and not replace live actors.

However, actors and writers worry that is exactly what AI will do, with the technology taking a key role in the dispute between their unions and studios, with the unions arguing generative AI has the potential to write scripts and create digital likenesses of actors, thus replacing them.

“Compensate and consent. That’s the name of the game,” Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, the actor’s union, said on a podcast last week.

“There’s no wiggle room around that. You have to compensate and you have to obtain consent, period. Otherwise, what are we giving away? What is our business, our likeness, our gestures, our acting, our voices? That’s what we’re selling. That’s who we are.”

This concern goes beyond Hollywood. Last month, a group of writers issued an open letter demanding AI firms get permission and pay writers for the use of their words to train AI models. A second group of writers sued OpenAI and Meta Platforms, accusing the tech companies of training their AI models using illegal copies of their books taken from the internet.

Meanwhile, June brought reports that news and magazine publishers were hoping to band together to protect their businesses from AI companies.

Among these publishers’ concerns is how their content, such as text and images, has been used to train AI technology and whether they should be compensated.