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Journalists’ and Writers’ Unions Call on Congress to Consider Threats to Their Work in AI Legislation

Major unions representing U.S. journalists, writers and other creative professionals are calling on Congress to make these workers’ needs a “core priority” in any upcoming artificial intelligence legislation.

Presidents of the Writers Guild of America East and West, The NewsGuild and the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians wrote to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Wednesday, urging that Congress “recognize the human ingenuity and creativity essential to a free press, the media and entertainment industry, and our members’ livelihoods” in its work to regulate AI.

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The unions collectively represent journalists across print, online media and broadcast, as well as film and television writers. “AI will never be a total replacement for the work of reporters, investigators, editors, podcasters, on-air anchors or film and television writers,” the letter continued.

Between September and December 2023, Schumer convened nine “AI Insight Forums” that brought together tech leaders, heads of unions and other organizations and scholars as Congress sought to start crafting legislation on the rapidly developing technology. Two signatories of Wednesday’s letter — NewsGuild president Jon Schleuss and WGA West president Meredith Stiehm — separately attended individual sessions of this series. Still, Wednesday’s letter sought to further underscore the threat that these union members face as select news companies, like G/O Media, have experimented with AI and large language models continue to ingest film and television writers’ work, despite the WGA establishing new guardrails on how entertainment studios can use the technology in its 2023 contract.

In the letter, the union leaders called for Congress to protect journalists and creative workers from being replaced by AI or having their work copied “without consent or fair compensation.” The groups asked for protections against AI being used to surveil workers and for safeguards on workers’ voice, likeness, performance and writing style. The right to bargain over AI in the workplace was also a priority for the unions.

“Our members across the United States are organizing to fight back against attacks by big companies cutting news and creative content at the heart of our communities — from local news journalists to podcasters to film and television writers,” the letter stated. “We urge you to stand by America’s union journalists and creative professionals in any action Congress takes to address artificial intelligence.”

In a statement about the letter, WGA East president and signatory Lisa Takeuchi Cullen appealed for “meaningful legislations.” She added, “AI is a rapidly advancing technology posing numerous real-world consequences. There must be strong legal guardrails put in place to ensure that this tool is not abused by companies to the detriment of a writer’s work.”

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