Canadian TV, film, music industries ask MPs for protection against AI

Canada's actors, directors and musicians are sounding the alarm over artificial intelligence, saying it threatens their livelihood and reputations. Actor Eleanor Noble and National President of ACTRA. the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television Radio Artists (ACTRA) speaks at a rally in Toronto, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.

Canada’s actors, directors and musicians are sounding the alarm over artificial intelligence, saying it threatens their livelihood and reputations.

Groups representing people who work in TV, movies and music are calling on the Liberal government to protect their industries in its AI legislation.

Actors’ union ACTRA says unbridled use of AI could result in people’s names and images being misused in artificially crafted videos — or even replace human actors entirely.

“In the entertainment business, our reputation, including our name, image and likeness is all we have. We are the brand,” national president Eleanor Noble told the House of Commons industry committee Monday.

The committee is studying the government’s proposed Artificial Intelligence and Data Act, billed as a regulatory framework to advance development while protecting individuals and communities from adverse effects.

“The difference between getting a job one day and not getting one the next can come down to the most minute things,” Noble said, “including one’s reputation.”

Last year, the impact of AI was a key issue in two big strikes by actors and writers in the United States.

The Directors Guild of Canada says generative AI like ChatGPT is reproducing extensive amounts of work without permission or compensation, calling it an existential threat.

It’s often “very difficult for rightsholders to know when their works have been used without their consent in training AI models,” said Dave Forget, the guild’s national executive director.

Generative AI is trained with large amounts of existing material, like written texts, images and videos, which the system can then use to create its own work.

For instance, a system fed a series of books like George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” can then be prompted to create its own version to complete the series in the style of the author.

It’s still unclear how copyright law applies to AI in Canada. The Liberal government recently held a consultation on copyright and generative AI, while a series of high-profile lawsuits on the issue have been launched in the U.S.

Music Canada says AI-generated content should be labelled as such so that people can tell the difference.

“Today, we are standing at the edge of the uncanny valley with AI,” said chief executive Patrick Rogers, who cited the example of a viral artificial image of Pope Francis in a Balenciaga jacket.

“Once you learn what to look for, you understand the image of the pope in the white puffy jacket is not a photo of the pope. But this technology will never be worse than it is today. Every day it is getting better.”

The Artificial Intelligence and Data Act, part of Bill C-27, would target what are described as “high-impact” AI systems.

First introduced before the widespread availability of generative AI systems, the governing Liberals now plan to amend it to include rules for such technology, including requiring companies to take steps to label content.

Anja Karadeglija, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.

The Canadian Press

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