Summer 2018

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Page 32 of 57 | Summer 2018 | SAG-AFTRA 31 I n the 1999 Steve Martin comedy Bowfinger, a producer films an A-list movie star, played by Eddie Murphy, without his knowledge and with the intent of creating a feature film from the footage. Technology has come a long way since then, and tools now more widely available are giving producers the ability to make films starring whomever they like, even if they don't have permission — without having to lurk in the bushes. It's a scary prospect for performers, who could find they are a part of a project they didn't even know existed. SAG-AFTRA is paying close attention to emerging technology that allows computers to convincingly duplicate real people, and the union is working to ensure members' rights are protected. "Each SAG-AFTRA member works hard to build their brand and their reputation. That's one of the reasons why it's important that lawmakers update statutes for the digital era and give artists the tools to prevent others from exploiting and profiting off of their images," said SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White. Studios and producers at all levels are starting to incorporate the use of digital images and digital voices in their work and are engaging in digital scans of performers on sets. Science fiction works, such as the 2013 film The Congress, starring Robin Wright, and the 1981 novel The Myrmidon Project, by Chuck Scarborough and William Murray, have explored a world where it's possible to create lifelike digital replicas of people — but it's no longer a cost-prohibitive, far-in-the-future possibility. The scanning and digital performance technology that video game companies have been working to improve, particularly in sports games, is now being used by film, television and new media producers. For example, by marrying the motion-captured performance of another performer with previously filmed performances and pictures of actors Peter Cushing and Paul Walker, Star Wars and The Fast and the Furious franchise producers were able to create entirely new performances of their deceased stars. Thus far, these posthumous performances are being done with the permission of the performers' estates. But what if that business practice changes? What if a producer asks you to sit for a facial and/or body scan when you arrive on set? What if a producer has you sit for a facial and/or body scan in connection with a pilot episode, and then uses you in every episode thereafter without engaging you to do the work? What if your digital self performs in a project that you were not engaged to work on, were not paid to work on, and performs without your permission? What if your voice is recorded for a project and then recreated for other projects without your permission? What if someone uses free, easily accessible face- swapping technology and digitally imposes your face in pornographic material and posts it online? Many of these questions are no longer hypothetical. Pornographic videos have begun to appear online that convincingly use digital technology to replace the head of adult film stars with high-profile female actors. Meanwhile, others featuring the images of presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama demonstrate an even scarier use of these tools: world leaders appearing to say whatever the makers of the videos want them to. Known as "deepfakes," these kinds of videos could potentially be used as propaganda tools or even to start a war. In the Obama video, performer and producer Jordan Peele does a spot-on impersonation of the former president's voice to warn viewers to think critically about what they see. The continuing evolution of technology isn't something to fear; change is inevitable and new tech often opens up new opportunities for SAG-AFTRA members as news and entertainment moves to new frontiers. However, it's important to guard against misuse. That's why the union and its Government Affairs & Public Policy Committee advocate for right-of-publicity laws that give our members the power to control their own images and guard "If a studio is able to create a digital replica of you, that digital replica isn't being asked to sign a nudit y waiver." — ATTORNEY DOUGLAS MIRELL SAG-AFTRA Executive Vice President Rebecca Damon with New York State Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle at the New York State Capitol moments after the Assembly voted to pass legislation to establish a post-mortem right of publicity on June 18. against use by those who would try to cash in on their names and reputations. The union also supports the ability for performers and their heirs to exert control over their names and images after they pass away. That issue has come into sharp focus in recent years, as deceased musicians have given "live" performances in holographic form.

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